'Broken Finnish': Accent perceptions in societal gatekeeping (2018-2022)

Broken-finnish-logo-1f-transparent.png‘Broken Finnish’ focuses on accent perceptions in the National Certificates of Language Proficiency test in Finland. It explores how the test takers’ pronunciation is perceived as ‘foreign accent’ by the raters and how these perceptions affect the general proficiency rating. As the test is a requirement for proving language proficiency for Finnish citizenship, it is a crucial societal gatekeeper. The focus is on the rating of the speech of four migrant groups, Arabic, Estonian, Russian, and Thai, and an older Finnish minority group, Finland Swedish. The migrant groups belong to the biggest migrant groups, and all the groups face negative stereotyping in Finland. The project studies whether the stereotypes affect speech proficiency rating by examining the acoustic quality of the ‘accents’ in relation to the raters’ verbalised perceptions and ratings of them. The research team consist of sociolinguists, (socio)phoneticians, language test researchers and statisticians. The main research questions are:

What is the relationship between the acoustically measurable, the ‘real’, phonetic features of the test takers and the raters’ perception of these features?

What kinds of statistically relevant relationships are there between the pronunciation ratings and descriptions of the accent and

  • the raters’ background factors and rater behavior,
  • the ratings of the other speech proficiency criteria, and
  • the test takers’ background factors?


Project is funded by Academy of Finland and University of Jyväskylä.

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