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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Accents

Just found this site which could be useful to any number of people, whether they're writers, teachers, actors etc, or just plain curious about language. From the mission statement:

The speech accent archive is established to uniformly exhibit a large set of speech accents from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English all read the same English paragraph and are carefully recorded. The archive is constructed as a teaching tool and as a research tool. It is meant to be used by linguists as well as other people who simply wish to listen to and compare the accents of different english speakers. It allows users to compare the demographic and linguistic backgrounds of the speakers in order to determine which variables are key predictors of each accent. The speech accent archive demonstrates that accents are systematic rather than merely mistaken speech.
The methodology seems good:

We constructed an elicitation paragraph to be read by each subject. The paragraph is written in English, and uses common English words, but contains a variety of difficult English sounds and sound sequences. The paragraph contains practically all of the sounds of English.

... Each Subject is recorded individually in a quiet room. Subjects sit at a table and are approximately 8-10 inches from the microphone.

Subjects are asked a series of seven demographic questions:
1. Where were you born?
2. What is your native language?**
3. What other languages besides English and your native language do you know?
4. How old are you?
5. How old were you when you first began to study English?
6. How did you learn English? (academically or naturalistically)
7. How long have you lived in an english-speaking country? Which country?


Here are five English speakers: 1. Kilkenny, Ireland; 2. Boston, Mass; 3. Belfast, Ireland; 4. Vancouver, BC; 5. Adelaide, Austalia.


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