Native Speaker Response to Non-Native Accent: A Review of Recent Research

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Elizabeth Reddington


Research has generally shown that without early exposure, non-native speakers cannot achieve a native-like accent in a foreign language (Gass & Selinker, 2001, p. 336). Differences in pronunciation, stress, rhythm, and intonation remain. Nevertheless, accent has been shown to affect how native speakers (NSs) evaluate non-native speakers (NNSs). This single speech characteristic has been openly cited as justification for much broader judgments about individuals. Lippi-Green (1997), for example, highlights several cases in the U.S. in which NNSs lost jobs due to their accents, such as that of an Indian woman (who had studied English for over 20 years) deemed unfit for a librarian’s position because of her “‘heavy accent’” and “‘speech patterns’” (p. 153). Matsuda (1991) reports on U.S. doctors who lost their malpractice insurance because the company felt accent would prevent them from successfully defending themselves in a lawsuit (p. 1346).

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APPLE Award Winning Papers in AL & TESOL