Date: Fri, 13 Mar 1998 13:51:10 -0500
From: Beverly Flanigan flanigan[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Subject: Re: Accent Reduction Therapy - Yoruba

A nice reply I thought you'd be interested in.

At 10:40 PM 3/12/98 -0500, you wrote:

I speak Yoruba and have spent time in West Africa. The problem you're
dealing with is not specific to Yoruba but rather is characteristic of West
African English, a recognized world dialect of English. You might check the
Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language on that. WAE comes from BE,
but it is strongly influenced by WA phenomena. With reference to the
post-vocalic r problem you mention, Standard BE has no post-vocalic r, and
therefore WAE doesn't either. What makes your client's speech distinctive
in this way is that most WA languages don't have schwa, the vowel BE uses in
the words you cite. Instead, they substitute a low central vowel that most
of them have. This is completely consistent, and it might be easier to
train the people he works with to recognize this peculiarity of his dialect,
since schwa in AmE results almost entirely from vowels being reduced in
unstressed syllables. Most WA languages are syllable timed, Yoruba
included, and WAE is syllable-timed. This means that there is no syllable
reduction due to stress and therefore no vowel reduction. This
suprasegmental difference is much more frequently the source of
comprehension problems then the use of the low central vowel where AmE has
postvocalic r.

BTW, given your profession, I'd strongly recommend Rosina Lippi-Green's
English with an Accent (Routledge 1997) on the subject of accent
discrimination and reduction.

Herb Stahlke
Ball State University

At 14:54 98/03/12 -0500, you wrote:

My first request to this list serve. Hope my question is appropriate for
membership! Thank you ahead of time.

Requesting assistance. Working with a highly motivated individual from
Nigeria whose native language was Yoruba. Medical professional with a high-
profile job who must communicate important information to his patients.

Our biggest problem (surprise) is "r" particularly in the following context:
earth, birthday, bird, fur, etc...

We have tried every facilitating technique I know of to assist with
production, i.e., he has watched my mouth as a model, watched self in the
mirror, closed eyes to "hear sound more sharply" and tried to imitate, tape
recordings, tongue placement cues. There has to be an answer out there! I
have worked successfully with numerous children who have distorted
of /r/ but this is the first adult that I have worked with on accent
reduction. We are making significant progress with other sounds but this
is driving us both crazy!

Will appreciate any and all suggestions!

Thank you!

Speech Pathologist