Spring 2022 PhD Rob Squizzero

Submitted by Joyce Parvi on

In June 2022 Robert Squizzero received his PhD in Linguistics, filing his dissertation Sociolinguistic and Phonetic Perception of Second Language Mandarin Chinese.

In his dissertation, Squizzero performed a series of experiments investigating social and phonetic factors affecting the perception of L2 Mandarin Chinese.  His dissertation is a unique contribution to the literature on second language perception, as most research on this topic has involved Indo-European languages, which, as Squizzero notes, raises “doubts about the generalizability of existing sociolinguistic, phonetic, acquisition, and pedagogical theory to other linguistic contexts.”

An example of Squizzero’s methodology can be seen in the experiment performed in the final chapter, where “292 first language (L1) Mandarin listeners were asked to select the correct transcriptions of each of six sentences spoken by two male L2 Mandarin speakers who differed in their prosodic accuracy. While listening to each set of sentences, a picture of an Asian face or a White face was displayed on the listener’s screen. Results indicate that participants were significantly more likely to select the correct transcription of each sentence when they heard the speaker with high prosodic accuracy and believed that the speaker was ethnically Chinese. Listeners also rated speakers’ comprehensibility, accentedness, and perceived personal characteristics; listeners found the speaker with high prosodic accuracy to be more comprehensible and less accented, but listeners also rated a speaker as more comprehensible and less accented when they believed the speaker was ethnically Chinese. This study demonstrates that a link between linguistic and social factors exists in processing L2 speech, even outside of the social, cultural, and linguistic environments typically used as a setting for investigation of L2 speech perception.”a

Squizzero’s entire dissertation is available for download Squizzero’s PhD committee was chaired by Alicia Beckford Wassink. Other reading committee members were Betsy Evans, Richard Wright, and Zev Handel (Asian Languages and Literatures, adjunct in Linguistics).