Hansen (2006: 31) states that "there is a scarcity of research on social constraints
on the development of an L2 phonology even though most researchers acknowledge
the importance of social context in language learning." We argue that this
is particularly the case with regard to the suprasegmental measures of speech.
Despite increased interest in the role of prosody in everyday interaction and
recognition of its importance in establishing cooperative and successful communication,
work in prosodic variation in L2 speech in relation to social factors
continues to trail behind other aspects of phonological development research.
This chapter begins with an examination of some of the historical reasons for this
research gap. The next sections involve a close look at the current view of accentedness
in relation to comprehensibility before describing in detail the suprasegmental
measures that have contributed to perceptions of L2 accentedness. We
then focus on the role of social factors with regard to L2 production of suprasegmentals
specifically. In the final section, we consider future directions for this
area of research and teaching in the field of L2 pronunciation.