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LINGUIST List 23.1261

Tue Mar 13 2012

Diss: Lang Acq/Phonetics/Phonology: Brannen: 'The Perception and Production of Interdental Fricatives in Second Language Acquisition'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <xiyanlinguistlist.org>

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Date: 10-Mar-2012
From: Kathleen Brannen <brannen.kathleenuqam.ca>
Subject: The Perception and Production of Interdental Fricatives in Second Language Acquisition
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Institution: McGill University
Program: Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Kathleen Brannen

Dissertation Title: The Perception and Production of Interdental Fricatives in Second Language Acquisition

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Dissertation Director:
Heather Goad

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation investigates the differential substitution of interdental
fricatives ([θ,ð]) by learners of English as a second language.
Differential substitution (or transfer) occurs when learners whose native
language does not include the 'th'sounds, substitute different segments in
their place, depending on the particular L1: [t,d], [s,z], or [f,v].
Throughout the past 50 years, various proposals have been forwarded to
explain this phenomenon. The majority of these approaches have focused on
structural differences within the contrastive phonemic systems of various
languages. This thesis examines two languages and two dialects of the same
language: Japanese, Russian, European French, and Québec French. Japanese
and European French are known to substitute [s,z] in place of [θ,ð], while
for Québec French and Russian, [t,d] are reported. Since European and
Québec French arguably have the same phonemic inventory of obstruents, this
thesis explores the function of non-contrastive phonetic information in
interdental substitution, in both perception and production. It is
hypothesized that perception underlies production, such that those errors
observed in production will be the sounds that are apt to be perceptually
associated with the target. Furthermore, it is considered that
non-contrastive phonetic features play a determining role in segmental
transfer. In particular, the feature STRIDENT is hypothesized to be key in
the choice of interdental substitute.

To account for how second language learners perceptually map target sounds
to their internal representations, the Auditory Distance Model is developed
and coupled with the Perceptual Assimilation Model (Best 1995). A premise
of the model is that the absence of features or particular combinations of
features in the L1 grammar forces the L2 learner to choose from among the
phonetically closest L1 sounds. Moreover, a feature's weight can be
augmented if it stands in an enhancement relation with another feature.
Thus cross-linguistic phonetic variation and the resulting diversity in
feature weight is what determines differential substitution in perception
and hence in production.

These hypotheses are empirically verified in five studies. The first two,
the AXB-1 and AXB-2 perception tasks, were designed to tap phonetic and
phonemic processing in separate conditions to demonstrate that the observed
patterns of differential substitution emerge in phonetic, but not phonemic
processing. The third perception experiment, Picture Identification,
examines phonemic processing. The final studies analyze production. The
results of one, a Word Production task, are compared with the perception
findings. The other involves a Spectrographic Analysis of the L1 coronal
fricative [s] to determine the degree to which the feature STRIDENT is
acoustically manifested for each of the languages.

The results from these studies largely support a perceptual basis to
differential substitution, and indicate the involvement of weighted
phonetic features. The role of visual information in lexical
representations and the possibility of task-induced bias are discussed in
regards to other interdental substitutes in the data. The theoretical and
empirical investigations in this dissertation elucidate our understanding
of the complex issue of sound adaptation in second language acquisition.

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