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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Accents are the way in which speakers pronounce and stress words. These variations in pronunciation of the same language provide important social information about a speaker’s ethnic, socio-economic, and geographical background. The ability to differentiate between regional accents and draw social inferences based on accents develops in early adolescence. Much research, particularly in the social sciences, has demonstrated the importance of accents on the social evaluation of speakers. It is therefore not surprising that the social influence of certain types of accents, particularly foreign ones, is regularly exploited in the movie industry. More recent studies have also demonstrated an interesting preference for speakers who ‘sound like us’, and some scientists even argue that humans are not the only species to use accents as a social signal. Accented vocalizations seem to be a marker for group membership even in the non-human animal kingdom. Novel neuroimaging results provide further support for the notion of accents as a group membership cue and demonstrate that our perception of speech is partly shaped by the listener’s geographical background.

Keywords: accent, communication, speech, voice, language attitude, social interaction

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