Acoustic Correlates of Word Stress as A Cue to Accent Strength
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Due to the clear interference of their mother tongue prosody, many Czech learners produce their English with a conspicuous foreign accent. The goal of the present study is to investigate the acoustic cues that differentiate stressed and unstressed syllabic nuclei and identify individual details concerning their contribution to the specific sound of Czech English. Speech production of sixteen female non-professional Czech and British speakers was analysed with the sounds segmented on a word and phone level and with both canonical and actual stress positions manually marked. Prior to analyses the strength of the foreign accent was assessed in a perception test. Subsequently, stressed and unstressed vowels were measured with respect to their duration, amplitude, fundamental frequency and spectral slope. Our results show that, in general, Czech speakers use much less acoustic marking of stress than the British subjects. The difference is most prominent in the domains of fundamental frequency and amplitude. The Czech speakers also deviate from the canonical placement of stress, shifting it frequently to the first syllable. On the other hand, they seem to approximate the needed durational difference quite successfully. These outcomes support the concept of language interference since they correspond with the existing linguistic knowledge about Czech and English word stress. The study adds specific details concerning the extent of this interference in four acoustic dimensions.