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Word Stress in non-native English: Evidence from English as a Lingua Franca

On 15 March, Christine Lewis gave the second FASS Graduate Seminar, in which she discussed the data collection for her PhD research on word stress in non-native English.

Her data cosists of 40 recordings of 41 speakers from various ASEAN countries involved in a spot-the-difference task in which the pictures were carefully designed to encourage the use of polysyllabic words: balloon, guitar, mirror, table, computer, coffee, umbrella, calendar, fourteen, forty, etc.

Indeed, some of these words were pronounced with non-standard stress, and this gave rise to misunderstandings, such as balloons with initial stress in the following interaction between a male from Vietnam and a female from Indonesia.

MVn : how about the BALloon?

FInd : [the?

MVn : [that i have the (.) er two BALloon (1.7) two BALloons

FInd : balLOONS? [no

MVn : [yeah (.) you don't have it?

FInd : no

One interesting feature of this token is that MVn is able to fix the grammar – by adding a plural 's' to the end of balloons after a pause of 1.7 seconds – but he does not know how to fix the pronunciation. This is common among learners of English: they know about grammar, but they know little about any problems with their pronunciation.