Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in English Composition



First Reader/Committee Chair

Vickers, Caroline


This thesis investigates issues of intelligibility through the lens and focus of prosody when the Bostonian and Los Angeles-based accents are heard in casually occurring conversation by native and non-native speakers. Over the spring and summer of 2017, six native speakers and 11 non-native speakers of English were interviewed from having listened to two 2.5 minute audio sample clips of speakers who have these accents. Respondents were asked questions such as what was difficult or easy or whether they could summarize the recordings for me. Findings indicate that while the native speakers often had difficulty with vocabulary due to context, non-native English speakers frequently found the same recordings to sound continuous, blended or merged together when the Boston and Los Angeles audios were played to them.

Native English speakers, by contrast, did not seem to face the same prosodic challenges of intelligibility as their non-native English-speaking counterparts when these two accents were heard in informal conversation. It has been found that L2 learners have a strong desire to learn English from their teachers through more naturally or informally occurring conversation. The argument is made that the teaching, practice and engagement of informal conversation is woefully inadequate for non-native speakers of English. Within this thesis the core subsets of the perceptions of prosody are analyzed between native and non-native speakers of English. The purpose of doing so is to pedagogically improve learning in EFL and ESL contexts.