Pronunciation Screening Test for Accented Speakers

Period of Performance: 07/01/2000 - 07/30/2001


Phase 1 STTR

Recipient Firm

Speech Technology/applied Research Corp.
Bedford, MA 01730
Principal Investigator


The last ten years have seen unprecedented numbers of non-native speakers entering healthcare in the USA as part of global internationalization. Intelligible speech is crucial in clinical practice and many other activities. There is now a need for objective screening tests that evaluate non-native speech to determine whether a speaker is sufficiently intelligible or in need of accent modification. This project's goal is to develop an automatic Pronunciation Screening Test (PST) from an existing hand-scored test, to determine the intelligibility of speech samples. The product we propose will allow rapid, reliable, and objective assessment of non-native speakers' intelligibility. In Phase I we will develop test components to measure phonemes and lexical stress in single words. Average values of acoustic parameters of native speech will determine the measurements. The PST will assess how much the non-native speech differs from native speech, as measured by the selected parameters. Two types of intelligibility tests, scored by trained phoneticians and naive listeners and compared to the PST's analysis, will establish the program's validity. In Phase II we will develop a third component to measure stress and intonation in sentences and will correlate the program's intelligibility scores with scores on an existing standardized test such as the SPEAK test. PROPOSED COMMERCIAL APPLICATIONS: The proposed test will be useful to screen non-native speakers who need to speak intelligibly in healthcare or educational contexts. It will provide an objective and reliable standard of intelligibility which can be used to refer people for accent modification services. It could also provide diagnostic information for use in accent reduction, or be developed to provide real- time feedback techniques during accent-modification training.