It is one of the oldest assumptions in rhetoric that pronunciation is positively correlated with a speaker’s persuasive impact on listeners. For example, both rhetorical manuals and trainers emphasize the importance of « a clear enunciation of every word and every syllable » (Jahnke 2011: 91, Mortensen 2011) and urge speakers to pay special attention to consonants in this matter (Barker 2011). The present talk contrasts this traditional rhetorical assumption with experimental phonetic evidence. Results suggest that the rhetorical assumption is not fundamentally wrong, but oversimplified in various respects. Overly clear pronunciation (e.g. the lack of even common phenomena of speech reduction) can backfire on the speaker, making him/her sound arrogant and vain rather than charismatic. In addition, vowels are by no means negligible, and the way their pronunciation relates to the speaker’s perceived charisma is complex and formant-specific. Based on that, the talk concludes with the presentation of a new tool (MARRYS, mandibular action related rhythm signals) that is currently being developed and tested for pronunciation-oriented speaker-charisma training.
Antje Mefferd (Department of Hearing and Speech Sciences, Vanderbilt University Medical Center)
Jonah Katz (West Virginia University)
Michele Gubian (IPS, LMU Munich)
Nancy C. Kula (University of Essex)