The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether French immersion experience leads to a distinct, recognizable accent. Five native speakers of French, teaching in the Department of French at Simon Fraser University rated and evaluated the word, sentence and narrative utterances of 17 L2 French speakers living in a non-francophone environment, who completed either high school French immersion or Core French (FSL). Using first a 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) rating task for words, and a 1 (very native accent) to 9 (very strong foreign accent) for sentences and an extemporaneous narration, listeners rated the accents of speakers. Then, using a program ID choice task, listeners indicated which program the anonymous speakers had completed. Results suggested that French immersion speakers were rated differently and could be distinguished from Core French speakers at above chance levels, though success rates among listeners varied somewhat. Formal analysis demonstrated that longer utterances produced more accurate choices. Self-reports of immersion speakers suggested that they spent a greater amount of time with their immersion peers both inside and outside the school environment than with English program peers, possibly accounting for differences in L2 French accent. Acoustic analysis indicated that French immersion speakers produced some token sounds (ex. /u/) in a measurably different way from Core French speakers.
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Thesis advisor: Munro, Murray
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