Categorization of regional and foreign accent in 5- to 7-year-old British children
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This study examines children's ability to detect accent-related information in connected speech. British English children aged 5 and 7 years old were asked to discriminate between their home accent from an Irish accent or a French accent in a sentence categorization task. Using a preliminary accent rating task with adult listeners, it was first verified that the level of accentedness was similar across the two unfamiliar accents. Results showed that whereas the younger children group behaved just above chance level in this task, the 7-year-old group could reliably distinguish between these variations of their own language, but were significantly better at detecting the foreign accent than the regional accent. These results extend and replicate a previous study (Girard, Floccia, & Goslin, 2008) in which it was found that 5-year-old French children could detect a foreign accent better than a regional accent. The factors underlying the relative lack of awareness for a regional accent as opposed to a foreign accent in childhood are discussed, especially the amount of exposure, the learnability of both types of accents, and a possible difference in the amount of vowels versus consonants variability, for which acoustic measures of vowel formants and plosives voice onset time are provided. © 2009 The International Society for the Study of Behavioural Development.
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