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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2007

Roy C. Major
Arizona State University


This study explores the question of whether native and nonnative listeners, some familiar with the language and some not, differ in their accent ratings of native speakers (NSs) and nonnative speakers (NNSs). Although a few studies have employed native and nonnative judges to evaluate native and nonnative speech, the present study is perhaps the first to include nonnative judges who were unfamiliar with the language they were judging. This study compares accent ratings of four different groups listening to Brazilian Portuguese spoken by NSs and NNSs. The 25 speakers of Portuguese were 5 NSs and 20 NNSs who were NSs of American English. The four listening groups were (a) Brazilian Portuguese listeners, (b) American English listeners with Portuguese experience, (c) American English listeners without Portuguese experience, and (d) English as a second language listeners without Portuguese experience. Although there were some differences, the results show striking similarities across groups, suggesting that listeners' first and second languages do not strongly affect ratings of foreign accents. The study also has implications for the critical period hypothesis because it raises the possibility that there are salient universal features of nonnative speech.

Research Article
© 2007 Cambridge University Press

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