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LINGUIST List 23.3939

Sun Sep 23 2012

Diss: Lang Acq/ Phonetics/ Phonology/ Socioling: Leung: 'Child L2 Phonology Acquisition...'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 21-Sep-2012
From: Alex Ho-Cheong Leung < alexlhcgmail.com">alex.ho-cheongunn.ac.uk; alexlhcgmail.com>
Subject: Child L2 Phonology Acquisition under the Influence of multiple Varieties
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Institution: Newcastle University
Program: School of English Literature, Language & Linguistics (SELLL)
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Alex Ho-Cheong Leung

Dissertation Title: Child L2 Phonology Acquisition under the Influence of multiple Varieties

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Dissertation Director:
Prof. Karen Corrigan
Prof Martha Young-Scholten

Dissertation Abstract:

Input variability is vividly present even in L1 acquisition contexts
(Foulkes and Docherty 2006), let alone in an FL/ L2 context where
learners are exposed to input in one form from fellow students, to a
different variety from the local teacher, and possibly another variety
from the institutional model which typically represents the "native-
standard norm" (Cook 2008; Regan 2013). However, little is currently
known about (second) language acquisition in relation to input
multiplicity (cf. Siegel 2010). In fact, it is unclear how L2 acquisition
models such as Speech Learning Model (Flege 1995) or Optimality
Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993) cope with input comprising
multiple varieties. Against this backdrop, this study set out to
investigate the nature of child L2 phonology acquisition under the
influence of multiple varieties and its interface with sociolinguistic
factors in Hong Kong (HK).

The study looks at L2 English phonology acquisition by Hong Kong
Cantonese children when various varieties are present. Specifically, it
targets youngsters exposed to Filipino-accented English from live-in
housekeepers in addition to the school and community input
encompassing UK, US, and HK varieties. Results show that the 31
kindergarten 3rd graders aged 4;6 to 6, and the 29 1st year secondary
students aged 11 to 14 who had received/were still receiving Filipino-
accented English significantly outperformed 34 age-matched controls,
who were not exposed to such input on a picture-choosing task and a
sound discrimination AX3 task targeting Filipino English plosives /p, t, k/
and fricatives /f, v/ (plosive onsets are often unaspirated while /f ,v/ are
sometimes rendered as [p, b] respectively in this variety (Tayao 2008)).
These findings confirm predictions made by L2 speech acquisition
theories in that the acquisition of L2 phonology is possible given a
sufficient amount of exposure to the target input.

However, participants did not produce this variety in the production
part of the experiment (a picture naming and a pair matching task)
despite showing signs of perceptual knowledge. In addition, a separate
instrument (verbal-guise technique) tapping into informants' attitude
towards Filipino accented English reveals ambivalent attitudes towards
this variety, making it challenging for one to resort to speech
accommodation (Beebe and Giles 1984) or speech design models (Bell
1984; 2001) for an adequate explanation.

This study highlights the complexity involved when multiple varieties
are present in the acquisition context, which is arguably the norm
rather than the exception in this current age of unprecedented
geographic, social, and occupational mobility (Chambers 2002). It also
reminds us of the importance of scrutinising from several perspectives
the nature of input in L2 phonology (Moyer 2011; Piske and Young-
Scholten 2009). Without a clear understanding of the diversity present
in the input, it is difficult to make any solid claims about learners'
phonological competence in a given target language. In addition, the
seemingly conflicting results on the perceptual and production parts of
the study underline how essential it is to analyse the acquisition
outcome from several perspectives through task triangulation.

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