World Speech Accents Online

In a previous post I discussed Forvo, an online database for teaching and learning pronunciation.  In a similar collaborative resource approach, a group at George Mason University maintains an archive of speech accents for English, spoken by both native and non-native speakers of English from around the world.

Each speaker records the same paragraph of English text, allowing comparative studies such as contrastive analysis of different language groups.  This “elicitation paragraph” has been constructed to contain most of the sounds used in common English, together with some words that use “difficult sounds and sound sequences”.

The site is collaborative in that it solicits recordings from its visitors (described as “remote researchers”) and provides a detailed set of instructions for making high quality recordings for inclusion in the archive. Samples must be 44.1 KHz., 16-bit mono recordings and each sample is vetted by the GMU archive team, cosisting of qualified linguists.  Samples also need a signoff by subjects, ensuring that all required ethical conditions have been met.  These include a minimal age of 18 and an understanding of how the recording will be used, etc.

One nice touch about this site is the Atlas page, allowing visitors to browse accents by geographic region. I couldn’t resist checking out a regional accent for Sydney, Australia.  To my ear, the provided sample sounds like a caricature of Australian English, more like a exagerrated version of Paul Hogan’s speech than a typical Sydneysider.

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