Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Speech Accent Archive


The Speech Accent Archive uniformly presents a large set of speech samples from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English read the same paragraph and are carefully transcribed. The archive is used by people who wish to compare and analyze the accents of different English speakers.

The archive is a project of the linguistics program in the Department of English, the College of Arts and Science's Technology across the curriculum program, and the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University, Washington DC.

Everyone who speaks a language, speaks it with an accent. A particular accent essentially reflects a person's linguistic background. When people listen to someone speak with a different accent from their own, they notice the difference, and they may even make certain biased social judgments about the speaker.

The speech accent archive is established to uniformly exhibit a large set of speech accents from a variety of language backgrounds. Native and non-native speakers of English all read the same English paragraph and are carefully recorded:
Please call Stella. Ask her to bring these things with her from the store: Six spoons of fresh snow peas, five thick slabs of blue cheese, and maybe a snack for her brother Bob. We also need a small plastic snake and a big toy frog for the kids. She can scoop these things into three red bags, and we will go meet her Wednesday at the train station.

The archive is constructed as a teaching tool and as a research tool. It is meant to be used by linguists as well as other people who simply wish to listen to and compare the accents of different English speakers: ESL teachers, actors learning an accent, speech pathologists...

This website allows users to compare the demographic and linguistic backgrounds of the speakers in order to determine which variables are key predictors of each accent. The speech accent archive demonstrates that accents are systematic rather than merely mistaken speech.

All of the linguistic analyses of the accents are available for public scrutiny. Comments on the accuracy of transcriptions and analyses are welcome.

No copyright infringement intended. For educational, non-commercial purposes only.

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