ISCA International Workshop on Speech and Language Technology in Education (SLaTE 2011)

Venice, Italy
August 24-26, 2011

Acoustic Analysis of Postvocalic /l/ in Chinese Learners of German in the Context of an Overall Perception Experiment

Oliver Jokisch (1), Hongwei Ding (2), Rüdiger Hoffmann (1)

(1) Institute of Acoustics and Speech Communication, TU Dresden, Germany
(2) School of Foreign Languages, Tongji University, Shanghai, China

A foreign accent involves discrete phonetic features which can be acoustically analyzed. However, these phonetic features are often masked perceptually by other features, such as prosodic features. This study presents an acoustic analysis of the postvocalic /l/ in Chinese learners, as an example, and puts these results into context with a perception test, which targets the overall aspects of an audible foreign accent.

Mandarin Chinese does not allow consonant finals except /n/ and /ng/ which leads to the question, how well can Mandarin speakers of German produce a clear /l/ in syllable final position. This study investigates 490 German speech tokens with embedded postvocalic /l/ produced by 12 Mandarin speakers from three different proficiency levels, as well as two native German reference speakers. The acoustic analysis indicates that the /l/ productions of Mandarin speakers are darker than those of native Germans. No relationship could be found between darkness of /l/ and proficiency levels. The data reveals that preceding back vowels favour dark realization and vocalization of /l/.

A perception test involving the produced tokens with 10 native German listeners suggests that dark realization of /l/ contributes to foreign accent, while other factors - such as expectation and previous knowledge of listeners or overall accent strength and prosodic quality – influence the postvocalic /l/ assessment.

Index Terms. Foreign language acquisition, Chinese, German, postvocalic /l/, acoustic analysis, perception test

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Jokisch, Oliver / Ding, Hongwei / Hoffmann, Rüdiger (2011): "Acoustic analysis of postvocalic /l/ in Chinese learners of German in the context of an overall perception experiment", In SLaTE-2011, 129-132.