The perception and identification of accent in spoken Black South African English

Louw P. ; De Wet F. (2007)


Can mother tongue speakers of the Nguni and Sotho languages determine each other's first language (L1) based on their English accent? Contrasting claims have been made in this regard. While Black South African English (BSAE) can be distinguished clearly from Standard South African English (SSAE) on the levels of both production and perception, insufficient evidence exists that such a distinction can be made between Nguni-English and Sotho-English. This study investigates the question of perceivable differences in BSAE accents by means of two perceptual experiments. The first aim of the experiments is to ascertain whether participants from either the Nguni or Sotho language group can determine whether a particular speaker has an SSAE or a BSAE accent. The second aim is to determine whether L1 Nguni and Sotho listeners can identify a speaker's L1 group by listening to English words and sentences pronounced by Nguni and Sotho L1 speakers. Lastly, we investigate whether there is any correlation between listeners' judgement of speakers' accent and their ability to determine a speaker's L1. The results of both perceptual experiments contradict the notion that different mother tongues influence BSAE to such a degree that the speaker's L1 is easily perceived. However, some correlation was found between perception of accentedness and the correct identification of L1. Copyright © 2007 NISC Pty Ltd.

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