Accent Reduction Versus Intelligibility

Susan Spezzini, Suzanne Carla Franks, Diane Carter

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingEntry for encyclopedia/dictionary


Accent reduction and intelligibility refer to related yet distinct constructs. The purpose of accent reduction is for second language (L2) speakers to reduce their accentedness and attain near-native pronunciation. The purpose of intelligibility is for L2 speakers to become as intelligible as possible to both first language (L1) and L2 listeners. Accent reduction is pursued mainly through medical and business models, while intelligibility is pursued mainly through an educational model, in other words teaching pronunciation. As English teaching methods transitioned, the desired ultimate attainment for L2 learners also transitioned, shifting from near-native pronunciation (an often unattainable goal) to increased intelligibility (an attainable goal). Although research on intelligibility is not conclusive, it suggests that intelligibility is influenced more by suprasegmental features (i.e., stress and intonation) than by segmental features (i.e., vowel and consonant phonemes). In addition, accented speech does not necessarily imply low intelligibility. Additional research is needed to identify speech characteristics that promote intelligibility and to explore methods for teaching these characteristics.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe TESOL Encyclopedia of English Language Teaching
EditorsJohn I. Liontas
ISBN (Electronic)9781118784235
ISBN (Print)9781118784228
StatePublished - Jan 18 2018


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