Public Lecture – Foreign Accents

Murray Munro (Simon Fraser University)

5-6 pm, June 16, 2022 in Thistle 325 @ Brock University

This lecture is open to the public.  There is no need to register for the entire conference in order to attend. Brock’s campus does still have a vaccine and mask mandate in effect.


Foreign accents: Their mystique, social meaning and scientific significance

A central concern of the annual Pronunciation in Second Language and Learning (PSLLT) conference is the concept of foreign accent – a way of speaking that tells listeners that the speaker comes from “somewhere else.” Accents are so commonly encountered in contemporary life that we all have feelings and opinions about them. As one of the most noticeable signals of cultural diversity, they can be detected in just a few milliseconds of speech, and may be judged attractive, mysterious or sexy. But they may also be evaluated negatively, serving as as scapegoats for prejudicial attitudes and discriminatory behaviour. For second language speakers, an accent may sometimes feel like an impediment to communication – perhaps even a sign of failure in language learning that needs prompt eradication. Not surprisingly, then, accents are often exploited as a business opportunity – a chance for entrepreneurs to market services of dubious value to an eager clientele.

In this talk I present an applied linguist’s perspective on foreign accents by tying together a variety of threads from speech research. I’ll start by dispelling some myths about the origins and consequences of accents and then discuss the ways in which the near universality of “accented speech” provides us with a fascinating window on human language and cognition.


Murray Munro is an internationally renowned expert in the area of foreign accent, and second language pronunciation learning and teaching.  A Professor of Linguistics at Simon Fraser University, he has carried out substantial empirical research in applied phonetics. His numerous publications, many with colleague Tracey Derwing, have appeared in a variety of top journals and have been cited widely in the research community. He is a former editor of the TESL Canada Journal and the Canadian Modern Language Review, and a founding board member of the Journal of Second Language Pronunciation. His book, Applying Phonetics: Speech Science in Everyday Life was published in 2020 by Wiley-Blackwell. In 2021, he was inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.