Perception of English Suprasegmental Features by Non-Native Chinese Learners

Shuang Zhang, Kun Li, Wai-Kit Lo and Helen Meng, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

This study is an initial attempt to assess the knowledge and perception of English suprasegmental features by non-native (Chinese) learners. The suprasegmental features covered are: lexical stress, utterance-level stress, intonation and phrasing, as well as prosodic disambiguation. Our findings suggest the need to enrich pronunciation training in terms of knowledge and production of English suprasegmental features. Learners have particular difficulty with stress patterns of long polysyllabic words, unreduced function words, intonation of Wh-questions and continuation phrases, as well as prosodic disambiguation for semantic interpretation. Our findings also show that the learners are capable of perceiving acoustic realizations of the suprasegmental features, which brings performance improvements between the knowledge test and perceptual test. This validates the value of developing speech technologies that can support perceptual and productive training of English suprasegmental features on a computer-aided language learning (CALL) platform.