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Abstract

This research is carried out to gauge the intelligibility of vowels produced by 19 Nepali international students (10 male and 9 female) enrolled at St. Cloud State University (SCSU) in fall 2017. At the time of the study, the average length of residency of students was 2.4 years. The students’ data were collected for two interrelated projects. One focused on the social network of Nepali students at SCSU (see companion paper in this volume) and this one investigates the intelligibility of their vowels. Vowels are singled out because they play a greater role in intelligibility than consonants (Prator and Robinett 1985:13). Intelligibility in this study is assessed instrumentally rather than impressionistically. In so doing, F1 and F2 of English vowels produced by Nepali speakers are compared and contrasted with those produced by General American English (GAE) in Peterson and Barney (1952).[1] Masking scores and relative functional load calculations are used to assess which Nepali-accented English vowels are intelligible and which ones are not. Pedagogical implications are drawn. The findings discussed in this paper are based on 1,254 vowel tokens (11 vowels, 19 participants, 3 repetitions, and two correlates, i.e., 11 x 19 x 3 x 2).

[1] Ladefoged and Disner (2012:43) note that GAE is an “old-fashioned” dialect. Yet, the acoustic measurements provided by this dialect are taken to be prototypical phonetic invariant measurements against which other dialects of American English are gauged. If the acoustic measurements of vowels produced by non-native speakers match those in Peterson and Barney, they are deemed to be fully intelligible.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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