Identification of New Zealand English and Australian English based on stereotypical accent markers
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Little is known about factors that influence dialect perception and the cues listeners rely on in telling apart two accents. This thesis will shed light on how accurate New Zealanders and Australians are at identifying each other's accents and what vowels they tune in to when doing the task. The differences between New Zealand and Australian English mainly hail from the differing production of the short front vowels, some of which have reached the status of being stereotyped in the two countries. With the help of speech synthesis, an experiment was designed to test the perception of vowels produced in a typically New Zealand and a typically Australian fashion. Forty New Zealanders and sixty Australians took part in the study. Participants were asked to rate words on a scale from 1 (definitely NZ) to 6 (definitely Australian). The words contained one of eight different vowels. Frequency and stereotypicality effects as well as nasality were also investigated. The results demonstrate that dialect identification is a complex process that requires taking into account many different interacting factors of speech perception, social and regional variation of vowels and issues of clear speech versus conversational speech. Although overall performing quite accurately on the task, New Zealanders and Australians seem to perceive each other's speech inherently differently. I argue that this is due to different default configurations of their vowel spaces. Furthermore, a perceptual asymmetry between New Zealanders and Australians concerning the type of vowel has been observed. Reinforcing exemplar models of speech perception, it has also been shown that frequency of a word influences a listener's accuracy in identifying an accent. Moreover, nasality seems to function as an intensifier of stereotypes.