Does accent matter? Investigating the relationship between accent and identity in English as a lingua franca communication

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System, ISSN: 0346-251X, Vol: 60, Page: 55-65

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SUNG, Chit Cheung, Matthew
Elsevier BV; Pergamon Press
Arts and Humanities; Social Sciences; Accent; Identity; Hong Kong; Second language; Pronunciation instruction; English as a lingua franca; English Language and Literature
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This paper reports on a qualitative inquiry into the under-researched relationship between accent and identity in English as a lingua franca (ELF) communication from the perspectives of second language (L2) speakers/learners of English. Using data collected via in-depth interviews with a group of students at a Hong Kong university on their ELF communication experiences, the paper reveals that participants’ perceptions of the relationship between accent and identity in ELF communication are highly complex and that their accent preferences appear to be driven by a range of identity-related and practical reasons. In terms of identity-related reasons, participants’ desire to speak English with a native-like accent was found to be related to their wish to express their identities as competent L2 speakers of English, whereas participants who indicated a preference to speak English with a local accent tended to emphasize the need to project their lingua-cultural identities and avoid native speaker associations. Further, participants’ concerns about intelligibility in ELF communication were found to be among the main pragmatic considerations in their accent preferences. The findings demonstrate the role of L2 speakers’ accent preferences in shaping their pursuit of desired identities in ELF communication and have important implications for pronunciation instruction in ELT.