Perceptions of World English Varieties by Chinese EFL Students

Effects of Average Ethnic Faces and Speaker Gender


Keywords: Accent perceptions, World English varieties, Gender effects, Visual prime effects


The objectives of this study are to elicit perceptions that Chinese users of English have towards a selection of world English varieties; to determine the effects of speaker gender and visual primes (ethnic faces) on perceptions; and also to reveal how these two factors interact with each other. In the present experiment, 278 respondents were exposed to eight world English varieties. Each accent sample had a female and a male voice version. Chinese students of English were exposed to these recordings, with the presence and absence of average ethnic faces as visual stimuli during the experiment, and requested to complete a questionnaire to reflect on their impressions by means of Likert scales. The results showed a preference for inner circle monolingual standards, and a rejection of outer circle Englishes (for the circles of English classification, see Kachru, 2006). Results also showed a positive perception of respondents towards their own Chinese accent. Ethnic faces visual prime and speaker gender factors, as well as their interaction, also proved to have significant influences on the results. Respondents rated accents significantly more positively when accompanied by ethnic faces. 


Download data is not yet available.


Adank, P., Stewart, A.J., Connell, L. & Wood, J. (2013). Accent imitation positively affects language attitudes. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 280.

Berthele, R. (2012). The influence of code-mixing and speaker information on perception and assessment of foreign language proficiency: An experimental study. International journal of bilingualism, 16(4), 453-466.

Chiba, R., Matsuura, H. & Yamamoto, A. (1995). Japanese attitudes toward English accents. World Englishes, 14, 77-86.

Coupland, N. & Bishop, H. (2007). Ideologised values for British accents 1. Journal of sociolinguistics, 11(1), 74-93.

Crystal, D. (1999). The future of Englishes. English Today, 15(02), 10-20.

Dalton‐Puffer, C., Kaltenboeck, G. & Smit, U. (1997). Learner attitudes and L2 pronunciation in Austria. World Englishes, 16(1), 115-128.

DeBruine, L. (2016): Young adult composite faces. figshare. Retrieved: 15 27, Jan 23, 2017 (GMT)

Floccia, C., Butler, J., Goslin, J. & Ellis, L. (2009). Regional and foreign accent processing in English: Can listeners adapt?. Journal of Psycholinguistic Research, 38(4), 379-412.

Foulkes, P. & Docherty, G. (2006). The social life of phonetics and phonology. Journal of phonetics, 34(4), 409-438.

Giles, H. & Coupland, N. (1991). Language: Contexts and Consequences. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Giles, H. & Powesland, P.F. (1975). Speech Style and Social Evaluation. London: Academic Press.

Hoffmann, S., Hundt, M. & Mukherjee, J. (2011). Indian English an emerging epicentre? A pilot study on light verbs in web-derived corpora of South Asian Englishes. Anglia-Zeitschrift für Englische Philologie, 129(3-4), 258-280.

Hundt, M. (2013). The diversification of English: old, new and emerging epicentres. English as a Contact Language, 182.

Kachru, B. B., Kachru, Y. & Nelson, C. L. (Eds.). (2006). The handbook of world Englishes. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Kristiansen, G. (2008). Style shifting and shifting styles: A socio-cognitive approach to lectal variation. In G. Kristiansen & R. Dirven (Eds.) Cognitive Sociolinguistics: Language Variation, Cultural Models, Social Systems. Berlin/ New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 45-88.

Labov, W. (1972). Sociolinguistic Patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Leitner, G. (1992) English as a pluricentric language. In M. Clyne (Ed.) Pluricentric Languages: Differing Norms in Different Nations. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 178-237.

McGowan, K. B. (2011). The Role of Socioindexical Expectation in Speech Perception. Doctoral dissertation, University of Minnesota.

McKenzie, R.M. (2010). The Social Psychology of English as a Global Language. Dordrecht: Springer.

McKenzie, R. M. & Gilmore, A. (2017). ‘People who are out of ‘Right. English’’: Japanese University Students’ Evaluations of English Language Diversity. International Journal of Applied Linguistics 27 (1), 152–175.

McKenzie, R. M., Kitikanan, P. & Boriboon, P. (2016). The competence and warmth of Thai students’ attitudes towards varieties of English: the effect of gender and perceptions of L1 diversity. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 37(6), 536-550.

McMillan, J. R., Clifton, A. K., McGrath, D. & Gale, W. S. (1977). Women’s language: Uncertainty or interpersonal sensitivity and emotionality? Sex Roles, 3, 545–559.

Palmen, M. J., Gerritsen, M. & van Bezooijen, R. (2012). The effect of interviewers’ and respondents’ accent and gender on willingness to cooperate in telephone surveys. Open Journal of Modern Linguistics, 2(4), 159-169.

Peters, P. (2009). Australian English as a regional epicenter. World Englishes–Problems, Properties and Prospects. Selected Papers from the 13th IAWE Conference, 107-124.

Purnell, T., Idsardi, W. & Baugh, J. (1999). Perceptual and phonetic experiments on American English dialect identification. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 18(1), 10-30.

Rhodes, G., Proffitt, F., Grady, J. M. & Sumich, A. (1998). Facial symmetry and the perception of beauty. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 5(4), 659-669.

Sasayama, S. (2013). Japanese college students' attitudes towards Japan English and American English. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 34(3), 264-278.

Scales, J., Wennerstrom, A., Richard, D. & Wu, S. H. (2006). Language learners' perceptions of accent. Tesol Quarterly, 40(4), 715-738.

Schmid, H. J. (2015). Does gender-related variation still have an effect, even when topic and (almost) everything else is controlled? In J. Daems, E. Zenner, K. Heylen, D. Speelman & H. Cuyckens (Eds.), Change of paradigms – New paradoxes. Recontextualizing language and linguistics. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter Mouton, 327-246.

Soukup, B. (2011). Speaker design in the context of Southern American English: Process models and empirical evidence. Brno studies in English, 37(1).

Speelman, D., Spruyt, A., Impe, L. & Geeraerts, D. (2013). Language attitudes revisited: Auditory affective priming. Journal of Pragmatics, 52, 83-92.

Stel, M. & Vonk, R. (2010). Mimicry in social interaction: Benefits for mimickers, mimickees, and their interaction. British Journal of Psychology, 101(2), 311-323.

Stockwell, P. (2002). Studies in language and society. In P. Stockwell (Ed), Sociolinguistics. London: Routledge, 27- 30.

Tévar, J. M. (2014). The effects of gender and question types: English varieties perceptions by Spanish EFL students. Paper presented at the International Conference of the Spanish Cognitive Linguistics Association 2014. Universidad de Extremadura, Badajoz, October, 15-18.

Tévar, J. M. (2015). ‘A Native Accent Is Always Attractive’: Perception of British English Varieties by EFL Spanish Students. Lenguas Modernas, 43, 45 - 77.

Timmis, I. (2002). Native-speaker norms and international English: A classroom view. ELT Journal, 56, 240-249.

Weinberger, S. (2013). Speech Accent Archive. George Mason University. Retrieved from

Xu, W., Wang, Y. & Case, R. E. (2010). Chinese attitudes towards varieties of English: A pre-Olympic examination. Language Awareness, 19(4), 249-260.

Yi, H. G., Smiljanic, R. & Chandrasekaran, B. (2014). The neural processing of foreign-accented speech and its relationship to listener bias. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 8, 768.

Yook, C. & Lindemann, S. (2013). The Role of Speaker Identification in Korean University Students' Attitudes Towards Five Varieties of English. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 34 (3), 279–296.

How to Cite
Martín Tévar, J. (2020). Perceptions of World English Varieties by Chinese EFL Students: Effects of Average Ethnic Faces and Speaker Gender. International Journal of English Studies, 20(3), 29-56.