Listening Assignment

Making the recording

Make sure to read the text at least once before you start recording, so that you are familiar with it – keep in mind that you will be analyzing the recording throughout the year. There is no bonus in reading fast – try to read fluently, in your best English pronunciation (it doesn’t matter whether your accent is British or American).

Make the recording using your mobile phone while sitting in a quiet room with no external noise. Upload your recording into MS Teams as a WAV or MP3 file, using your name (e.g., Dolezal-Zdenek.wav/mp3). If your phone records in a different format (e.g., m4a), convert it to WAV or MP3 before uploading.

Preparation stage

Before you start, make sure you have downloaded and familiarized yourselves with the Praat software (see Working in Praat).

Open the recording (.wav or .mp3 file) in Praat, so that you see it in the Objects window. You now have to create a new object, the annotation file called the TextGrid (TG), in which you will evaluate your pronunciation. Click Annotate – To TextGrid… and enter the names of the five tiers (word + four tiers on which you will make your evaluations). All of the evaluation tiers will be point tiers, as shown in the picture.

Select both the Sound and the TextGrid and, in the dynamic menu on the right, click on View & Edit. A new window opens, in which click on File – Save TextGrid as text file… to save your TextGrid. Keep the filename in the same format (e.g., Dolezal-Zdenek.TextGrid).

Please do not make any changes to the sound file – you only open it, never save it. You will only be changing, saving and sending to us the TG. Do not rename any of the files (specifically, do not add things like „final“, „evaluated“, „really-final“ or anything else to the file name, nor to the extension – keep the format „surname-name.TextGrid“).

As part of the preparation, mark boundaries of all words – use your ear to determine their location (though you may find the waveform and spectrogram are also helpful). This will help you with orientation when you start analyzing the recording. When you have finished and the TextGrid looks like this one, upload the TextGrid file into MS Teams as well.

Analysis (winter semester)

You will be evaluating four kinds of speech sounds:

  • The vowels which correspond to /æ ɒ/ in Standard British English (SBE). Remember that we are relating our pronunciation to SBE; that doesn’t mean that American English is inferior, we simply need a reference.
    You will evaluate these two vowels on the vow tier, in the whole textHowever, only analyze them in lexical words (i.e., not in grammatical words like thatcan or from).
  • The dental fricatives /θ ð/ and the velar nasal /ŋ/.
    You will evaluate these consonants on the cons tier, in the whole text.
  • Fortis plosives /p t k/, regarding their aspiration. Only analyze aspiration in those /p t k/ sounds which appear at the beginning or in the middle of words, not at the end (e.g., in passport or profit you would evaluate the /p/s but not the /t/s).
    You will evaluate aspiration on the aspir tier, in the first half of the text (finish with … positive nor negative).
  • No audible release of plosives on the rel tier, in the following ten wordsnot the, prospectabout theput theactive, not bringthat canthat thereout tothat the.

For each evaluated sound, insert a point into the evaluation tier by clicking into the little circle at the top of the tier (or as described on the Working in Praat page). Then specify your evaluation in the newly created point.

The vowels and the three consonants (corresponding to the first two bullet points) will be evaluated on the following scale:

  • “2” = native-like realization of the target sound. The standard against which you compare your pronunciation is Standard British English. If your pronunciation of the given sound is native-like American, enter “2 Am” instead of “2”.
  • “0” = target sound pronounced with a strong Czech accent (or your native accent).
  • “1” = target sound pronounced in a manner which is intermediate between native and strong non-native accent (e.g., pronouncing /ð/ as a dental plosive [d̪] or /æ/ as [ɛ]).

You will handle aspiration and no audible release differently. Instead of evaluating the correctness of your pronunciation, you simply mark the presence or absence of aspiration in your pronunciation (“Y” equals presence, “N” equals absence of aspiration in the given sound). With no audible release, you will mark „R“ for released (e.g., [get dʌn]) and „U“ for unreleased (e.g., [get ̚ dʌn]).

An example sound and TG can be downloaded here.

The course of work is up to you, but we strongly recommend that you follow the rough guidelines below, and/or our announcements in classes.

NOTE: If you pronounce a completely different sound, don’t evaluate it! Especially in altered or otherwise modified words.

Listening assignment guidelines (winter semester):
Week 4: do the preparation stage (see above)
Week 5: start evaluating your /æ/ vowel
Week 6: start evaluating the /ɒ/ vowel for the first Progress Check
Week 8: start marking aspiration
Week 9: evaluate your dental fricatives
Week 10: evaluate your velar nasal sound
Week 12: evaluate the releasing of plosives

Analysis (summer semester)

You will work with the same recording and TextGrid as in the winter semester.

First of all, delete the evaluation tiers from the winter semester, only keeping the word tier. Then you will need to create two new point tiers, one for linking analysis (as the first tier) and one for the analysis of weak forms (between the phone and word tiers). To do this, click on TierAdd point tier… in the Editor window.

You will be evaluating two connected-speech phenomena:

  • linking – in the Linking tier, add a point between the word-final sound and word-initial vowel, wherever linking is possible, and enter ? for a glottal stop (no linking),res for pseudo-resyllabification, r for linking r, j for transient j and w for transient w.
    You will analyze the way you linked in the whole recording.
  • weak forms – the point tier will be called weak. You will focus only on words which we selected as those where weak forms are most likely to occur in native English and where advanced Czech speakers of English may pronounce a full vowel. You will find the text, with the target vowels highlighted in yellow, here. Insert a point into each target vowel, and assess whether you pronounced it as really reduced (mark R) or as a full vowel (mark F).

See an example sound and TG here to make sure you’re doing the task correctly.

Listening assignment guidelines (summer semester):
Week 2: start analyzing your linking
Week 7: start evaluating weak forms