The pronunciation of unstressed initial by French learners of English: perspectives for automatic assessment

Abstract : It is acknowledged that learners often produce a transfer from L1 to L2 (see Gut 2009 amongst others). L1 vowels will therefore tend to be pronounced instead of the appropriate L2 vowels. This is even more problematic in the case of unstressed reduced vowels for French learners of English. Even advanced learners show difficulty: if they often display a very good realization of stressed syllables (especially vowels), they tend to fail pronouncing unstressed syllables properly, and more particularly reduced vowels. This is due to the fact that the two languages are rhythmically completely different since French syllables can hardly ever be reduced. The present study follows up on Tortel & Herment (2015), which focuses on the pronunciation of unstressed initial by native English speakers and shows that a process of weak vowel centralizing and raising in initial position takes place, with a neutralization of the opposition between /ə/, /ɪ/ and /e/ in this context. Here we examine the pronunciation of the same vowel by French learners of English. The analyses are also based on the AixOx corpus (Herment et al. 2012, 2014), which is a collection of read speech. The same 40 one-minute passages are read by 10 native English speakers and 20 French learners of English divided into 2 groups (beginners and advanced). The aim is (i) to examine the realizations by the two groups of learners and (ii) to compare them to the realisations produced by the natives (from Tortel & Herment 2015). Our study underlines the importance of the vocalic reduction issue and should constitute a guideline for teaching English and especially English rhythm. The ultimate goal will be to contribute to the elaboration of an automatic evaluation of prosody and more particularly provide evaluative rhythmic criteria for the speech of French learners of English (Tortel, 2009).
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Conference papers
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Submitted on : Wednesday, February 8, 2017 - 5:38:14 PM
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Sophie Herment, Anne Tortel. The pronunciation of unstressed initial by French learners of English: perspectives for automatic assessment. ALOES 2016 Pre-conference workshop "Learner scoring and automatic assessment for spoken data?”, Mar 2016, Paris, Unknown Region. ⟨hal-01462238⟩

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