Speaking hebrew with an accent: Empathic capacity or other nonpersonal factors

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The study examines a hypothesis that the degree of accent in L2 is related to a measure of ego permeability. Native Hebrew speakers, native Russian-speaking immigrants, and Arabic-speaking Israeli natives participated. All were students at the University of Haifa, where the language of instruction is Hebrew. The participants were recorded producing two speech segments and the recorded segments of speech were played to a group of 20 native Hebrew speakers, who rated the degree of accent in each segment on a scale from 1 (no accent) to 5 (heavy accent). These participants also completed the Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) developed by Davis (1980), which has been translated into Hebrew and validated (Even, 1993). The scale yields a single numerical score that is a reflection of empathic capacity. We looked at the correlations between the "heaviness" of the accent of L2 speakers and a measure of empathy. These revealed strong correlations between degree of accent and empathy scores in the Russian-speaking group, but not in the Arabic-speaking group. The sociolinguistic implications of these findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)195-207
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2008


  • Accent
  • Arabic
  • Bilingualism
  • Empathy
  • Hebrew
  • Russian
  • Speech production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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