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Review of  English with a Latin Beat

Reviewer: Walcir Cardoso
Book Title: English with a Latin Beat
Book Author: Barbara O. Baptista Michael Watkins
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Phonology
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 19.959

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EDITORS: Barbara O. Baptista; Michael Watkins
TITLE: English with a Latin Beat
SUBTITLE: Studies in Portuguese/Spanish - English Interphonology
SERIES TITLE: Studies in Bilingualism 31
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2006

Walcir Cardoso, Department of Education / TESL Centre, Concordia University

Can _English with a Latin Beat_ do the samba, salsa, flamenco and fado without
losing its beat? This is one of the questions that will be addressed in this
review. This volume consists of an introductory section and eleven chapters on
the phonological acquisition of English as a foreign language (EFL) within a
classroom environment. It is organized in a bottom-up hierarchical fashion,
covering studies that revolve around the segment (Part I), the syllable (Part
II), and higher prosodic domains (Part III). The volume distinguishes itself
from others in the field (e.g. those organized by Gass and Selinker 1983, James
and Leather 1986, Ioup and Weinberger 1987, Strange 1995) in that it compiles
studies focusing on two geographically and linguistically related first
languages: (Brazilian) Portuguese and Spanish. In addition, the ELB brings
together a collection of empirical studies explicitly or implicitly designed to
assess two theoretical assumptions on second language (L2) acquisition: the
Speech Learning Model (Flege 1995) and Markedness Theory (e.g. Eckman's 1977
Markedness Differential Hypothesis).

The volume begins with an introductory section written by the editors. It
introduces and contextualizes the rationale behind the conceptualization of the
volume, and provides a succinct historical overview of the recent trends in
research in L2 phonological acquisition, starting with the publication of the
seminal volumes edited by James and Leather (1986) and Ioup and Weinberger
(1987), and the first meeting of the New Sounds conference in 1990. The editors
then proceed with a brief but informative introduction to some of the
theoretical models that the studies included in the volume adopt to analyze
interlanguage phenomena, namely Flege's (1995) Speech Learning Model, Eckman's
(1977) Markedness Differential Hypothesis and its more recent incarnation, the
Interlanguage Structural Conformity Hypothesis (Eckman 1991), Major's (2001)
Ontogeny Phylogeny Model, and Best's (1995) Perceptual Assimilation Model. This
is followed by an overview of the eleven chapters. Finally, the section ends
with a discussion of the practical (for pronunciation instruction) and
theoretical implications of the results and analyses reported in the eleven

The first part of the volume is comprised of segmental-level studies and
consists of three papers. The first chapter ''Adult Phonetic Learning of a Second
Language Vowel System'', by Barbara Baptista, examines the longitudinal
acquisition of English vowels by Brazilian Portuguese (BP) speakers under the
assumption that the phonetic learning of a novel vocalic system is possible in
adulthood. After acoustic analyses of the speech of eleven BP speakers producing
words containing the relevant set of English vowels, the author concludes that
foreign vowels are not acquired in isolation; instead, she argues that they are
acquired as part of a system in which each new vowel triggers featural
adjustments in its vocalic neighbors.

The second paper in this section is ''The Phonological and Phonetic Development
of New Vowel Contrasts in Spanish Learners of English'', by Paola Escudero, which
reports the findings of an experimental study investigating the perception of
Scottish English high front vowels /i/ - /I/ by 50 Spanish speakers from various
regions of Spain and South America. Her findings suggest a stage-like trajectory
in the development of the /i/ - /I/ contrast, starting with the learners'
inability to identify the contrast, intermediated via stages in which they use
vowel duration or a combination of vowel duration and spectral quality to
differentiate the two vowels, to a final stage in which the two vowels are
discriminated using spectral quality only, as is the case by speakers of the
target L2, Scottish English. These results lead the author to conclude that L2
learners have the ability to learn to perceive foreign L2 vowels phonologically.

The final paper in this section is ''Age and Native Language Influence on the
Perception of English Vowels, by Francisco Gallardo del Puerto, Ma Luisa García
Lecumberri and Jasone Cenoz, which, as the title suggests, investigates the
effects of age and L1 influences (Spanish) on the perception of English vowels.
The analysis of three groups of children, organized by age of onset of learning
English (4, 8 and 11 respectively, with mean exposure of 6 years by the date the
experiments were administered) indicate that the age of initial exposure to the
L2 does not constitute an advantage to the accurate perception of English
vowels, thus dismissing a critical period effect. Consistent with Flege's (1995)
Speech Learning Model, the results of this study confirm that while new and
identical vowels are more likely to be perceived correctly earlier in the L2
acquisition process, relatively similar vowels are more likely to be misidentified.

The second part of the volume is devoted to syllable-level studies involving the
L2 acquisition of codas and onset clusters and includes five chapters. The first
chapter, entitled ''The Influence of Voicing and Sonority Relationships on the
Production of English Final Consonants'', by Barbara Baptista and Jair da Silva
Filho, examines the acquisition of English word-final consonants (codas) by BP
speakers. More specifically, the study investigates the effect of voicing and
sonority markedness on the production of codas that are illicit in BP which, due
to L1 transfer and markedness effects, syllabify as onsets of the epenthesis
vowel [i] (i-paragoge henceforth) in early and intermediate stages of L2
acquisition. The results indicate that this interlanguage phenomenon is more
likely to occur following a voiced consonant, an obstruent, and obstruents that
have dorsal and coronal articulators.

The second chapter, ''Perception and Production of Vowel Paragoge by Brazilian
EFL Students'', authored by Rosana Denise Koerich, adds another dimension to the
analysis of the i-paragoge phenomenon in BP-based interlanguage via the
incorporation of a perception perspective. Under the assumption that ''inaccurate
perceptual targets may be responsible for the misproduction of L2 sounds''
(p.91), the study establishes that the production of codas in interlanguage
positively correlates with learners' ability to discriminate them, corroborating
thus the ''perception before production'' hypothesis (e.g. Polivanov 1931, Flege

The remaining three chapters in Part II involve the acquisition of a single
syllable component: /s/ + consonant/s onset clusters (sC clusters). The first of
these, ''The Sonority Cycle and the Acquisition of Complex Onsets'', by Robert
Carlisle, sets the scene for the subsequent two chapters by providing a
comprehensive discussion of the theoretical apparatuses that have been proposed
for the analyses of sC clusters. Carlisle's two experimental studies involving
Hispanophone EFL learners confirm previous research on the subject by
demonstrating that sC sequences are more easily articulated if they are shorter
(e.g. compare the shorter bilateral cluster in [st]op with the longer trilateral
sequence in [str]ap) and preceded by a vowel, and that their acquisition order
follows a path determined by markedness on sonority sequencing (Clements 1990)
that predicts that the least marked /sl/ cluster is acquired before its more
marked homorganic counterparts (i.e. /sn/ and /st/, in that order).

Based on Carlisle's studies on the acquisition of sC sequences, the fourth
chapter, authored by Jeanne Teixeira Rebello and Barbara Baptista, ''The
Influence of Voicing on the Production of Initial /s/-clusters by Brazilian
Learners'', carries on a similar study involving a different community of EFL
learners, Brazilian Portuguese speakers. The results, however, run counter to
those of Carlisle in that the length of the cluster as well as the preceding
phonological environment (consonant versus vowel) had no significant effect on
sC production. In addition, the hypothesis based on Clements' (1990) sonority
sequencing was not confirmed, since the production of the least marked /s/ +
sonorant clusters encountered the highest rate of L1 interference. The last
chapter dedicated to syllable-level studies is the contribution by Andréia
Schurt Rauber, ''Production of English Initial /s/-clusters by Speakers of
Brazilian Portuguese and Argentine Spanish''. Influenced by Carlisle's works on
the subject, Rauber's study compares the production of the same set of sC
clusters across two distinct EFL learning communities, using the same
methodology for data collection and analysis adopted in the aforementioned
studies by Carlisle and Rebello and Baptista. In general and with insignificant
disparities, the results presented in this chapter corroborate those obtained in
their respective groups of learners, as discussed in the overview of Carlisle
and Rebello and Baptista above, and emphasize the effects of both markedness and
L1 transfer in the acquisition of a second language.

Finally, the third part consists of prosodic-level studies involving the
acquisition of English prosody, more specifically stress and rhythm. It starts
with the chapter by Michael Alan Watkins, ''Variability in the Use of Weak Forms
of Prepositions'', which investigates the variable production of the reduced
forms of four English prepositions, as produced by BP speakers. The study
concludes that, of the set of prepositions analyzed, only ''to'' is more likely to
undergo vowel reduction, and that the phenomenon is favored in the presence of a
preceding syllable within the same intonation group, when it is followed by an
onsetless syllable, and when the preposition is followed by a stressed syllable.

Ma Luisa García Lecumberri's chapter entitled ''Perception of Double Stress by
Spanish Learners of English'' is devoted to the perception of secondary and
primary stress in polysyllabic simple and compound words in the speech of
non-native (L1 Spanish) and native English speakers. By comparing how these two
groups identify stress in English words (e.g. no difference in identifying
primary stress in compounds across the native and non-native groups), the author
concludes that, in general, native competence alone does not provide a strong
advantage for stress identification vis-à-vis the feature investigated.

The volume closes with L. Armando Silveiro and Michael Alan Watkins's chapter
''The Production of Compound Stress by Brazilian learners of English'', in which
the authors examine the production of phrasal stress patterns for compounds
among advanced EFL students. The results indicate a strong tendency for
incorrect stress placement on the second constituent of compounds, which is
interpreted as a direct transfer of the patterns that characterize the phonology
of the L1, Brazilian Portuguese.

Written by a team of researchers from universities in Brazil, Europe and the
United States, some of international renown, this volume constitutes a
significant contribution to the field of phonological L2 acquisition and, as
such, it is highly recommended to researchers and specialists in the field and
in phonology in general. The eleven chapters cover an extensive selection of
topics that empirically validate and challenge some of the hypotheses, models
and theoretical principles proposed in the literature for the analysis of
phonological phenomena in second language acquisition. Accordingly, the volume
illustrates some current and relevant advances in L2 phonological acquisition
research. However, as is the case with any enterprise of this magnitude, the
volume contains some shortcomings.

Let us start with the omissions. Considering its recent date of publication, I
was surprised not to see a single analysis or discussion that considers the
effect of input frequency in the development of L2 phonology (e.g. the model
formalized in Bybee 2001, and the empirical studies compiled in Bybee and Hopper
2001). In current L2 acquisition research (e.g. see the special 2002 thematic
issue on frequency effects on L2 acquisition of the _Studies in Second Language
Acquisition_ journal), several studies have confirmed that structures with
higher phonotactic probability are produced earlier and more accurately than
those characterized by a lower probabilistic distribution in the input (i.e.
student-directed speech or teacher talk, considering that the majority of the
studies included in Baptista & Watkin's volume are based on in-classroom L2
acquisition). Some of the studies in the volume could benefit from exploring the
hypothesis that some of the patterns encountered in L2 development could also be
explained from a frequency-based perspective. For instance, one could argue that
the results indicating that bilateral (sC) clusters are acquired earlier (or
articulated more easily) than trilateral (sCC) clusters, reported in Carlisle's
study, could be easily explained by a frequency count of these forms in English.
An examination of the 1,000,000 words that comprise the Brown Corpus (Kucera and
Francis 1967, conducted via Cobb's web-based Concordancer on _The Compleat
Lexical Tutor_ - version 4.5: reveals that the
phonotactic distribution of each pair of /sp/-/spr/ and /sk/-/skr/ clusters in
the corpus can predict with exact precision their acquisition order, similar to
what is reported in Carlisle's analysis based on markedness. Specifically, and
assuming that L2 learners' input correlate with that of the Brown Corpus (see
Jurafsky 2003 and Cardoso in press for a similar proposal), a frequency-based
analysis predicts that the highly frequent bilateral clusters (/sp/ = found in
3,736 words; /sk/ = 593 words) should be acquired earlier (or more accurately
produced) than their less frequent trilateral counterparts (/spr/ = 404 words;
/skr/ = not found in the corpus).

Another surprising omission was not to see any reference to Optimality Theory
(OT; Prince and Smolensky 1993) as a framework to analyze second language
phenomena, especially considering that many of the authors have a strong
background in generative linguistics. There is a considerable amount of research
using the framework and its more recent developments (e.g. Boersma and Hayes'
2001 Stochastic OT) to analyze L2 acquisition within the areas of inquiry
embraced by the volume, including production (e.g. Broselow, Chen and Wang
1998), perception (e.g. Escudero and Boersma 2004), sociolinguistically-grounded
variation (e.g. Cardoso 2007), and frequency effects (e.g. Broselow and Xu 2004).

Other less serious omissions and quibbles include the following: There are no
studies on the acquisition of English consonants or their features (e.g. the
interdentals, voice onset time in the production and perception of voiceless
stops, which are notoriously problematic for the two L1s encompassed by the
volume). In addition, the volume lacks studies involving the European variety of
Portuguese (EP) as an L1, an absence that the editors acknowledge as accidental
because ''no relevant research was available'' (a surprising statement considering
the works of Madalena Cruz-Ferreira over the last two decades) and, more
convincingly, because EP ''differs most noticeably from BP and Spanish'' at both
the prosodic and segmental levels (pp. 2-3).

The volume has also some inconsistencies in editing and planning, especially
involving the reference sections and the author index. The discrepancies
involving the former could have been avoided had the editors unified all the
reference lists into a single bibliography at the end of the book, which would
also eliminate the considerable amount of overlap of references across the
individual papers (e.g. Flege 1995 and several works by Carlisle are
consistently repeated in the chapters). Other minor drawbacks of similar nature
include: The title for Flege (1995) is not provided in a uniform manner (compare
''Second language speech learning: Theory, findings and problems'' (p.14) with
''Second language speech learning theory, findings and problems'' (p.39)).
Moreover, the criteria for inclusion of an author's name in the author index
section is not clear (e.g. two of Broselow's papers are cited at least twice in
two separate chapters (p.4, p.75) and the author does not appear in the index,
while Boersma, who is only cited once as a second author, is worthy of a place
in the list).

In conclusion, despite some of the shortcomings discussed above, there is much
to admire in this collection of papers. In general, the volume is superbly well
written and organized and, as the first collection to gather studies involving
the acquisition of L2 English from the perspective of those who speak English
''with a Latin beat'', it should be considered a starting point for researchers
and graduate-level students interested in the subject. It includes empirical
studies that reveal a great deal about phonological L2 acquisition and,
furthermore, it provides compelling evidence for the different roles that the
native language, the target language, and universal principles have in the
development of perception and production skills in a second language. In closing
and answering the question put forward at the outset of this review: Yes,
''English with a Latin Beat'' can definitely do the samba, salsa and flamenco, but
it will certainly have a difficult time accompanying the lethargic rhythm of the

Best, Catherine. 1995. A direct realist perspective on cross-language speech
perception. In _Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in
cross-linguistic research_, ed. Winifred Strange, 171--204. Timonium, MD: York

Boersma, Paul, and Bruce Hayes. 2001. Empirical tests of the gradual learning
algorithm. _Linguistic Inquiry_ 32:45--86.

Broselow, Ellen, and Zheng Xu. 2004. Differential Difficulty in the Acquisition
of Second Language Phonology. _International Journal of English Studies:
Advances in Optimality Theory_ 4(2):135--163.

Broselow, Ellen, Su-I. Chen and Chilin Wang. 1998. The emergence of the unmarked
in second language phonology. _Studies in Second Language Acquisition_ 20:261--280.

Bybee, Joan, and Paul Hopper, eds. 2001. _Frequency and the Emergence of
Linguistic Structure_. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Bybee, Joan. 2001. _Phonology and language use_. Cambridge: Cambridge University

Cardoso, Walcir. In press. The development of sC onset clusters in interlanguage:
Markedness vs. frequency effects. In _Proceedings of the Generative Approaches
to Second Language Acquisition_ (GASLA 9), edited by Roumyana Slabakova, Jason
Rothman, Paula Kempchinsky, and Elena Gavruseva. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla
Proceedings Project.

Cardoso, Walcir. 2007. The variable development of English word-final stops by
Brazilian Portuguese speakers: A stochastic optimality theoretic account.
_Language Variation and Change_ 19:1--30.

Clements, George. 1990. The role of the sonority cycle in core syllabification.
In _Papers in Laboratory Phonology I: Between the Grammar and Physics of
speech_, ed. John Kingston and Mary Beckman, 283--333. New York: Cambridge
University Press.

Cobb, Tom. 2004. _The Compleat Lexical Tutor_ 4.5 [A web-based suite for corpus
analysis]. URL:

Eckman, Fred. 1977. Markedness and the contrastive analysis hypothesis.
_Language Learning_ 27:315--330.

Eckman, Fred. 1991. The structural conformity hypothesis and the acquisition of
consonant clusters in the interlanguage of ESL learners. _Studies in Second
Language Acquisition_ 13:23--41.

Escudero, Paola, and Paul Boersma. 2004. Bridging the gap between L2 speech
perception research and phonological theory. _Studies in Second Language
Acquisition_ 26(4):551--585.

Flege, James Emil. 1993. Production and perception of a novel, second-language
phonetic contrast. _Journal of the Acoustical Society of America_ 93(3):1589--1608.

Flege, James Emil. 1995. Second language speech learning: Theory, findings and
problems. In _Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in
cross-language research_, ed. Winifred Strange, 233--277. Timonium MD: York Press.

Gass, Susan, and Larry Selinker, eds. 1983. _Language transfer in language
learning_. Cambridge, MA: Newbury House Publishers.

Ioup, Georgette, and Weinberger, Steven, eds. 1987. _Interlanguage Phonology_.
Cambridge, MA: Newbury House Publishers.

James, Allen, and Jonathan Leather, eds. 1986. _Sound Patterns in Second
Language Acquisition_. Dordrecht: Foris.

Jurafsky, Dan. 2003. Probabilistic modeling in psycholinguistics: Linguistic
comprehension and production. In _Probabilistic Linguistics_, ed. Rens Bod,
Jennifer Hay, and Stefanie Jannedy, 39--95. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Kucera, Henry, and Nelson Francis. 1967. _Computational Analysis of Present-Day
American English_ [The Brown Corpus]. Providence: Brown University Press.

Major, Roy. 2001. _Foreign accent: The ontogeny and phylogeny of second language
phonology_. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Polivanov, Evgenij. 1931. La perception des sons d'une langue étrangère.
_Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague_ 4:79--96.

Prince, Alan, and Paul Smolensky. 1993. _Optimality Theory: Constraint
interaction in generative grammar_. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Strange, Winifred, ed. 1995. _Speech perception and linguistic experience:
Issues in cross-language speech research_. Timonium, MD: York Pres.

Walcir Cardoso (PhD, McGill University) is an Assistant Professor of Applied
Linguistics at the TESL Centre / Department of Education, at Concordia
University. He has taught English, French and Portuguese (with a Latin beat) as
foreign languages in Brazil and Canada, and conducts research on the acquisition
of L2 phonology and how this knowledge can be applied to the teaching of
pronunciation in standard and computer-assisted environments.