Perception and Pronunciation in Fluency Assessment

2015-12-01T12:28:19Z (GMT) by Norman Glenn Fulcher Kevin Browne
This chapter argues that any definition of the construct of fluency must include the familiarity of the listener with the entire context of an utterance. This extends to pronunciation, the intelligibility of which is an interaction between the phonological content of the utterance and the familiarity of the listener with the second language (L2) speech produced by speakers from a specific first language (L1) background. This position recognizes that successful communication is not merely a matter of efficient cognitive processing on the part of the speaker. Fluency is as much about perception as it is about performance. This is a strong theoretical stance, which can be situated within an interactionist perpective on language use in applied linguistics (and social sciences more generally). Good theory generates specific predictions that may be empirically tested. If the listener is critical to the construct, we would expect to discover two facts. Firstly, that variation in listener familiarity with L2 speech results in changes to scores on speaking tests. Secondly, that this variation is associated with estimates of intelligibility when the speaker is kept constant. In this chapter we describe a study that investigates these two predictions. We situate the findings in the context of language testing, where variation in familiarity among raters is a cause for concern.