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Although laboratory phonology techniques have been widely employed to discover the interplay between the acoustic correlates of English Lexical Stress (ELS) – fundamental frequency, duration, and intensity - studies on ELS in polysyllabic words are rare, and cross-linguistic acoustic studies in this area are even rarer. Consequently, the effects of language experience on L2 lexical stress acquisition are not clear. This investigation of adult Arabic (Saudi Arabian) and Mandarin (Mainland Chinese) speakers analyzes their ELS production in tokens with seven different stress-shifting suffixes; i.e., Level 1 [+cyclic] derivations to phonologists. Stress productions are then systematically analyzed and compared with those of speakers of Midwest American English using the acoustic phonetic software, Praat. In total, one hundred subjects participated in the study, spread evenly across the three language groups, and 2,125 vowels in 800 spectrograms were analyzed (excluding stress placement and pronunciation errors). Nonnative speakers completed a sociometric survey prior to recording so that statistical sampling techniques could be used to evaluate acquisition of accurate ELS production. The speech samples of native speakers were analyzed to provide norm values for crossreference and to provide insights into the proposed Salience Hierarchy of the Acoustic Correlates of Stress (SHACS). The results support the notion that a SHACS does exist in the L1 sound system, and that native-like command of this system through accurate ELS production can be acquired by proficient L2 learners via increased L2 input. Other findings raise questions as to the accuracy of standard American English dictionary pronunciations as well as the generalizability of claims made about the acoustic properties of tonic accent shift.

Faculty Supervisor

Professor Ettien Koffi

Author Bio

Paul Keyworth graduated from the MA TESL/Applied Linguistics program at SCSU in March, 2014. This paper is an abridged version of his Master’s thesis project. Paul has spent the past 12 years teaching EFL/ESL to children and adults of all proficiencies in South Korea, Singapore, the UK, and the US. He earned a B.Sc. degree from the University of Kent at Canterbury in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2001 and attained the University of Cambridge Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA) in 2008. His area of research interest is the interface between laboratory phonology and the sociophonetic aspects of second language acquisition. He intends to pursue a Ph.D. in the field of acoustic phonetics and speech communication. E-mail: LinkedIn:



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