Loquens, Vol 4, No 2 (2017)

The contribution of prosody to foreign accent: A study of Spanish as a foreign language


Cristiane Conceição Silva
Universidade Federal da Bahia, Brazil
orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0002-2086-8523

Plínio Almeida Barbosa
Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Brazil
orcid http://orcid.org/0000-0001-6317-3548


The aim of this study is to analyze the contribution of prosody on the perception of foreign accent by Brazilian learners of Spanish. The data were collected from 15 participants and a control group of 5 native Spanish speakers. A perceptual test was performed with two different speech styles (reading and storytelling) and with delexicalized and natural speech. The speech production was judged by 24 native Spanish subjects. First, they had to determine the nationality of the speaker by listening to the delexicalized excerpts in Spanish (storytelling). After that, the listeners used a continuous scale to rate the excerpts (reading and storytelling) for the degree of foreign accent in Spanish. The results suggest that it is possible to identify foreign accent only with the prosodic information provided in the delexicalized stimuli, i.e., f0, duration, and overall intensity. In addition, the perceptual test allowed us to assess the degree of foreign accent of each subject while revealing the great variability of their production. Finally, concerning the external data, the following factors predicted foreign accent among the learners: gender, length of residence in Spain, formal language instruction in Brazil, age of arrival in Spain, and reported use of Brazilian Portuguese in Spain. These results confirm the crucial role of naturalistic learning of a foreign language, as shown by previous studies.


foreign accent; prosody; delexicalization; L2 Spanish; task type

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