Stress Misassignment in the Pronunciation of English by Arabic-speaking Learners: Erratic Practice or Crosslinguistic Influence?


The role of L1 interference in English stress assignment produced by Arabic-speaking EFL learners has received little research attention. This study aims to investigate whether faulty stress assignment by Arab learners is arbitrary or systematic. It also attempts to discover a linkage, if any, between Arabic phonotactic rules of stress placement and stress misplacement in English by Saudi learners. 120 learners from Prince Sattam bin Abdulaziz University were randomly chosen from 3 different levels of English proficiency (lower-intermediate, upper-intermediate, advanced); they were asked to pronounce 72 stimulus words that covered all morpho-syllabic word structures that the learners often mispronounced. The recordings were analysed using WASP spectrogram software and also by two independent raters. Results strongly indicated that crosslinguistic influence may have caused the learners to consistently a) place the stress on a specific syllable in a word even when this word has multiple stress assignments with a difference in meaning, b) stress the second item in a compound noun instead of the first, c) place the stress on the penultimate syllable of most polysyllabic words, d) place the stress on the second syllable of contracted negative auxiliary verbs , and e) misplace stress irrespective of their level of English proficiency.


Rami A. Sa'di, Talha A. Sharadgah and Maha S. Yaseen


Arabic-speaking EFL learners, crosslinguistic influence, phonotactic rules, stress misplacement, syllable structure