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Glottalizations in German and Czech English

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Boosting research on glottalisations

Glottalisations — sounds created by the closing and sudden opening of the vocal cords — impact language learning, teaching and training. An EU initiative investigated glottals in German and Czech speakers of English.

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In the German and Czech languages, glottalisations are common before words with initial vowel sounds and are also important in linking words. In the English language, however, they are less common. Overall, the aim of the EU-funded 'Glottalizations in German and Czech English' (GECZENGLOTT) project was to analyse glottalisations in German English and compare them with various other language productions. Activities were carried out based on previous research done on glottalisations in Czech English. A speech database of German-accented English was initially set up and the recorded signals were used in automatic speech recognition experiments. Project members analysed glottalisations prior to word-initial vowels in German English and compared them to Czech English and British English. Experiments were performed with German and English listeners to investigate the effect of glottalisations on word recognition by Germans and then compared them to Czech and English natives. Experiments also analysed the impact of glottalisations on the perception of foreign accent by native English speakers. Additional tests examined the perception of pitch in glottalisation by native speakers of German and English. To validate outcomes, experiments were also carried out with native speakers of Chinese, Macedonian and Swedish. Results showed that glottalisations influence the perception of accentedness — the extent to which a listener judges second language speech that differs from the native speaker norm. This finding led to the development of a new method to guide non-native speakers in dealing with such pronunciation issues. GECZENGLOTT has enriched the body of knowledge on glottalisations, which will advance research in second language acquisition, speech and phonetics. Second language teachers and learners stand to benefit from the outcomes.

Keywords

Glottalisations, language learning, speech recognition, second language, phonetics

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