LINGUIST List 12.791

Thu Mar 22 2001

Qs: Phonological Recall Task, 2nd Lang/Canada

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  1. Catherine Walter, Phonological similarity: recall and production
  2. Auger, Julie, Second language instruction in Canada

Message 1: Phonological similarity: recall and production

Date: Sun, 18 Mar 2001 22:52:51 +0000
From: Catherine Walter <>
Subject: Phonological similarity: recall and production

I am looking for any references to work relevant to some unexpected
findings in a recall task for second-language learners. The task was
recall of sequences of four visually-presented CVC words in the second
language (English). Each sequence of four words was generated
randomly from a pool of eight words, and there were three of these
pools, corresponding to three conditions.

In one ('Dissimilar') condition, the eight words in the pool were
maximally phonologically dissimilar: 8 different initial consonants, 8
different vowels, 8 different final consonants. In the second
('Similar') condition, there were only 2 initial consonants, 2 vowels
(the vowels in 'met' and 'might'), and 2 final consonants, for the
eight words. The third ('Similar+') condition was like the Similar
condition (2 initial consonants, 2 vowels, 2 final consonants), but
the vowels in this conditions ones that I expected the (French L1)
participants to have more difficulty with (the vowels in 'coat' and

There were two groups of participants, at lower- and
upper-intermediate levels of English proficiency; there was also a
control group of native English speakers. This replicates, with some
refinements, a classic first-language experiment of Baddeley's (1966)
in which he found that there was a large adverse effect of
phonological similarity on recall of word sequences, but no comparable
effect of semantic similarity.

As expected, all participants did better on the Dissimilar sequences
than on the others; but some of the other results were puzzling. On
the hypothesis that their recall would be based on phonemic
representation and storage, I had expected that the native English
speakers' performance on the Similar and Similar+ sequences would be
identical. I had expected that problems with phonological
representation would make the Similar+ sequences more difficult for
the L2 speakers.

But what happened is this:
 Only the upper-intermediate L2 participants performed as expected:
well on the Dissimilar sequences, less well on the Similar sequences,
and even less well on the Similar+ sequences.

 The lower-intermediate L2 participants performed fairly well on the
Dissimilar sequences, but poorly, and equally poorly, on the Similar
and Similar+ sequences - and this although 1) they distinguished the
two vowels in the Similar condition in production and 2) problems with
grapheme-to-phoneme conversion were eliminated as a factor.
The native English speakers' performance was virtually identical to
the upper-intermediate participants': good on Dissimilar, less good on
Similar, and, suprisingly, less well (as poor as the
upper-intermediate L2 participants) on Similar+.

It looks as if the fact that the vowels in 'coat' and 'caught' are
more similar than the vowels in 'met' and 'might' is affecting the
performance of the native speakers - suggesting that their storage of
to-be-remembered words is in some way not phonemic. Likewise, it
looks as if, even thought the lower-intermediate L2 participants
differentiated the met/might vowels in production, their
representation of these vowels for recall is not well differentiated.

Does anyone know of any work that has been done in this area? I have
consulted with a phonologist colleague who has suggested that I look
at the work of David Pisoni; any other suggestions would be greatly

I'd appreciate it if you'd address any answers to my e-mail address; I
will send to this list a summary of any answers I receive.

Many thanks in advance,

- ---------------
Dr C. Walter
Visiting Scholar
The University of Cambridge
 Research Centre for English and Applied Linguistics

- -------------
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Message 2: Second language instruction in Canada

Date: Tue, 20 Mar 2001 13:21:05 -0500
From: Auger, Julie <>
Subject: Second language instruction in Canada

	Could someone please tell me if all provinces and territories in
Canada mandate the study of the other official language by all high school
students? I know that in Qu´┐Żbec, all French speaking children must study
English and all English speakers must study French. But what about other
provinces? I'd appreciate any information or references that you can
provide me about specific provinces or Canada in general.
	Thanks in advance!

- ------------------------------
Julie Auger
Depts. of French & Italian and Linguistics
Indiana University
Ballantine Hall 642
1020 E. Kirkwood Ave.
Bloomington, IN 474057103

Phone: (812) 855-7958/7293
Fax: (812) 855-5363

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