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I have seen videos that interview accent experts, like on why Americans do bad English accents (a reason given is a lack of exposure). But are there something like references that one could point to to rate accents? I would think at least one should survey native speakers to get a rating (I met a Kiwi who said he would get mistaken for British by Americans even). Maybe AI could do ratings nowadays if trained on enough. I figure one would need to do individual ratings for each case, even if a reference existed, like having to break down examples, showing where they messed up. If ratings were compiled somewhere that'd be easier though. Like something one could use to show how bad Americans doing accents in lotr were, except like wormtongue, which one may figure influenced having less in the hobbit.

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  • Where would you start with objectively trying to rate an accent? Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 10:39
  • That's literally what I'm asking
    – user487296
    Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 10:40
  • It is more that its quality can be assessed. Speech coaches will do such things and tell the student where they are failing and succeeding. This is more helpful than saying "Your British English accent is 71%" -- It is possible to invent an arbitrary scale, though what use it would have is questionable.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 10:55
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    I can't wrap my head around: "which one may figure influenced having less in the hobbit." Maybe it's just too early… Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 11:00
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    A survey wouldn't need to ask for ratings directly. It could just ask people if they guess the person is a native speaker or not, for those that don't know. Then a person could get a percentage that said yes.
    – user487296
    Commented Sep 12, 2023 at 11:05

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If you truly want to quantify this numerically, you might try looking at formant frequencies (see Wiki). These are a way of measuring the quality of a vowel in an objective acoustic manner. By comparing the formant frequencies (and their relative positions) between two speakers, you could plausibly determine how similar their accents are; through some sort of clustering analysis you might be able to determine how close someone's pronunciation of different vowel phonemes are to those of (say) General American or contemporary RP.

Of course, it's all more complicated than that for a multitude of reasons. First, which vowel phonemes occur in which words also varies between accents, as with the lot-cloth split in AmE or the trap-bath split in BrE. Secondly, you'd also need to take into account allophony, since the same phoneme can be realized by different phones in different contexts, as with æ-tensing and Canadian raising. Thirdly, none of this takes into account differences in consonants, which of course are also quite important.

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