Americans' perception of the Romanian accent in English
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This dissertation explores the relationship between Romanian accented speech in English and American native speakers' perception of it. Being that Romanian is a Romance language with some Slavic influences, this dissertation seeks to answer the question of what the Romanian accent in English sounds like to Americans. Twenty-one naïve raters, all native speakers of American English, listened to recordings of fifty speakers: twenty Romanians, twelve native speakers of various Romance languages, thirteen native speakers of various Slavic languages, and five native speakers of American English. When hearing the Romanian accent, most raters were unable to place it even within a language group such as Romance or Slavic. The percentages of Romanians guessed to be speakers of a Romance language (28%) and a Slavic language (25%) were very close and show that the Romanian accent did not sound particularly Romance or particularly Slavic to the raters in this study. Raters were also asked to note what features in all non-native speakers' speech sounded accented. Based upon what the raters noted, it was shown that speakers had difficulties with several marked sounds as well as with phonemic and allophonic contrasts not existent in their native languages. The two theoretical frameworks used to explain these difficulties are the Markedness Differential Hypothesis (Eckman 1977) and the Speech Learning Model (Flege 1984). In addition to segmental features salient to the raters, a large number of tokens referring to suprasegmental features was recorded. Due to the challenge of accurately describing suprasegmental features faced by the naïve raters, more research is necessary to obtain insight regarding the differences and commonalities between American English, Romanian, other Romance languages, and Slavic languages.