11 June 2011

Coffee Bake and Runtime

In my previous post, I mentioned the work I am doing on misunderstandings in the English used by people from different backgrounds.

I am currently working on the speech of someone from Laos being interviewed by someone from Brunei. After the interview, the Bruneian listened to the recording and told me what she was unable to understand. From this we can work out what features of pronunciation the speaker from Laos might focus on.

Crucially, there are four things that caused a problem:
  • use of [r] in place of [l] in initial position in a word such as like
  • omission of [r] in a consonant cluster such as at the start of present
  • omission of final fricatives and affricates, so there is no [s] at the end of nice
  • use of [n] instead of [l] in the coda of a syllable, so old sounds like own
The first three of these combine when the Laotian said:
the food they serve in coffee break or the lunch time
but the listener heard 'coffee bake or runtime'. In fact, the only way we could work out what he had actually said was by asking him to come back and tell us.