Intelligibility of the Standard British English Accent to Nigerians.

ABSTRACT This research entitled “Intelligibility of the Standard British English Accent to Nigerians” is an exploration of phonetic and phonological variation between a native speaker accent of English and a non-native speaker accent of English. With special consideration of how language convergence and divergence impinge on a speaker’s intelligibility to a listener, the main thrust of the study is variation as a determinant of accent intelligibility. Specifically, the study explores the features of English pronunciation of speakers of the Standard British English accent which is known to phoneticians as Received Pronunciation (RP), and how these accent features influence the intelligibility of the accent to Nigerians. It has been previously established that variation which is characterized by unique phonetic and phonological features exists between RP and the Nigerian accent of English. Variation usually leads to instances of intelligibility breakdown when speakers of different accents of English communicate with one another. The concept of intelligibility and the accent variation theory form the background of the account of intelligibility negotiation between the selected Britons and Nigerians. Sixteen (16) speakers of RP and one hundred and sixty (160) Nigerians were selected from among the student population of the University of Leeds, Leeds, UK and the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria respectively. Audio recordings of the RP speakers’ utterances were made. The recordings spanned the entire range of the RP phonemic inventory as well as its suprasegmental sounds. The recording was presented to Nigerians and they were asked to make written responses. The framework of intelligibility testing which was proposed by Catford was employed for the analysis of the recording as well as the written responses. This enables us arrive at a determinative scalar measure of the level of intelligibility of the British speakers to the Nigerian listeners. Furthermore, the accent variation theory which encompasses accent phonology is employed for the analysis of the linguistic subsystems of segmental and suprasegmental phonology which are central to the study. On this basis, the study states as its thesis that the level of intelligibility of RP to Nigerian listeners is 62%. This percentage value is based on the analysis of spontaneous speech recordings of the speakers of RP and the assessment of the responses of the Nigerian listeners. In addition to this, the corpus of scripted speech data enables us arrive at a hierarchy of RP speech features in relation to intelligibility. Finally, the research concludes that the intelligibility level of the speakers of the Standard British English accent to Nigerians is influenced by certain inherent and non-idiosyncratic features of the accent at both segmental and suprasegmental levels of phonological description. Furthermore, listener factors such as accent familiarity do have a determinative effect on intelligibility negotiation involving speakers of different accents of English.
A Thesis Submitted to the School of Postgraduate Studies, University of Lagos.
British English Accent , Phonetic , Phonological , Language , Research Subject Categories::HUMANITIES and RELIGION::Languages and linguistics::Linguistic subjects::Phonetics
Kofoworola, A.A (2012), Intelligibility of the Standard British English Accent to Nigerians. A Thesis Submitted to University of Lagos School of Postgraduate Studies Phd Thesis and Dissertation, 302pp.