Free classification of American English dialects by native and non-native listeners

Cynthia G. Clopper*, Ann R. Bradlow

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Most second language acquisition research focuses on linguistic structures, and less research has examined the acquisition of sociolinguistic patterns. The current study explored the perceptual classification of regional dialects of American English by native and non-native listeners using a free classification task. Results revealed similar classification strategies for the native and non-native listeners. However, the native listeners were more accurate overall than the non-native listeners. In addition, the non-native listeners were less able to make use of constellations of cues to accurately classify the talkers by dialect. However, the non-native listeners were able to attend to cues that were either phonologically or sociolinguistically relevant in their native language. These results suggest that non-native listeners can use information in the speech signal to classify talkers by regional dialect, but that their lack of signal-independent cultural knowledge about variation in the second language leads to less accurate classification performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)436-451
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Phonetics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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