Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Alexander Francis

Committee Member 1

April Ginther

Committee Member 2

Margie Berns

Committee Member 3

Mary Niepokuj


Second language (L2) speech is typically less fluent than native speech, and differs from it phonetically. While the speech of some L2 English speakers seems to be easily understood by native listeners despite the presence of a foreign accent, other L2 speech seems to be more demanding, such that listeners must expend considerable effort in order to understand it. One reason for this increased difficulty may simply be the speaker’s pronunciation accuracy or phonetic intelligibility. If a L2 speaker’s pronunciations of English sounds differ sufficiently from the sounds that native listeners expect, these differences may force native listeners to work much harder to understand the divergent speech patterns. However, L2 speakers also tend to differ from native ones in terms of fluency – the degree to which a speaker is able to produce appropriately structured phrases without unnecessary pauses, self-corrections or restarts. Previous studies have shown that measures of fluency are strongly predictive of listeners’ subjective ratings of the acceptability of L2 speech: Less fluent speech is consistently considered less acceptable (Ginther, Dimova, & Yang, 2010). However, since less fluent speakers tend also to have less accurate pronunciations, it is unclear whether or how these factors might interact to influence the amount of effort listeners exert to understand L2 speech, nor is it clear how listening effort might relate to perceived quality or acceptability of speech. In this dissertation, two experiments were designed to investigate these questions.