ARTICLE: On-air enunciation is not always necessary

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The audience is able to understand spoken news even if the reader does not use clear and proper pronunciation throughout, write Jonas Nygaard Blom and David Nicolas Hopmann, both of the University of Southern Denmark, and Michael Ejstrup, of the Danish School of Media and Journalism (names not in original order).

The authors had 9 015 Danes listen to news-like soundbites, read out loud by a Danish radio journalist. Some soundbites were carefully enunciated while others were spoken casually, with naturally occurring phonetic reductions. An example of such reduction is the use of libry instead of library in spoken English, the authors explain. After listening to the samples, the subjects had to answer multiple-choice questions regarding the messages’ contents.

Muddled pronunciation has only “limited” effects on the listeners’ comprehension, the authors found. Some forms of mispronunciation had no effects, others had barely noticeable effects, and only few significantly lowered comprehension. Most notably, a reduction situated before a stressed syllabel is particularly confusing to the listener.

While clear pronunciation is important in some cases, perfect enunciation need not be demanded from on-air journalists, the authors conclude.

The article “The Effects of Phonetic Reduction on Actual and Perceived Comprehension by News Audiences” was published by the journal Journalism Studies. It is available online (abstract free).

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