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Review of Recent Research in Second Language Phonetics/Phonology
EDITORS: Michael A. Watkins, Andreia S. Rauber and Barbara O. Baptista TITLE: Recent Research in Second Language Phonetics/Phonology: Perception and Production PUBLISHER: Cambridge Scholars Publishing YEAR: 2009
Chunsheng Yang, Whitman College/Northwestern University
SUMMARY This book collects selected papers presented at ''New Sounds 2007: Fifth International Symposium on the Acquisition of Second Language Speech'', held in Florianopolis, Brazil, in November 2007. The collection consists of 17 experimental studies on the acquisition of second language (L2) phonetics/phonology, organized into four parts on vowels, on consonants, on syllable structure, and structures beyond the syllable.
Part 1 deals with the acquisition of L2 vowels. Chapter 1, ''Assessing the effects of phonetic training on L2 sound perception'' by Cristinea Aliaga-Garcia and Joan C. Mora, concerns the acquisition of both vowels and consonants. It examines the effects of phonetic training on the production and perception of English stops and vowels by Spanish learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL). It was found that phonetic training does not lead to significant improvement, even though learners did perceive and produce some pairs more accurately after training. For example, the perception of /p/ and /b/ improves greatly and voice onset time (VOT) displays a significant shift towards longer VOT. Specifically, /p/ and /t/ were produced with longer VOT after training, but the negative VOT values in /b/ and /d/ did not shorten after training, while vowel accuracy as measured by formant 1 (F1) and formant 2 (F2) did not improve. It was argued that the size and effect of training on perception and production differs greatly according to phonetic dimension and sound contrast.
Chapter 2, ''Training and generalization effects of English vowel reduction for Spanish listeners'' by Esther Gomez Lacabex, Maria Luisa Garcia Lecumberri, and Martin Cooke, investigates the training and generalization effects of English unrounded mid-central schwa for Spanish listeners. Results showed improvement in perception performance after both perception and production training. It was argued that both production and perception training contributed to the development of the students' perceptual abilities. The improvement of the groups receiving articulatory training supports a facilitating relationship between production and perception in that production training contributes to the development of perception. It was also found that the improvement in perception can be carried over to a non-instructed, more challenging context.
Chapter 3, ''Starting age and exposure effects on EFL learners' sound production in a formal learning context'' by Ian R. A. MacKay and Natalia Fullana, examines the age of onset (AOL) and exposure effects on Spanish EFL learners' vowel production in a formal learning context. EFL learners' vowel productions elicited through repeating production tasks were rated by native speakers of general Canadian English with respect to the degree of accentedness. The Canadian English native listeners were also asked to identify the vowels in those elicited words. The results showed that there is little or no correlation between accent ratings and vowel identification. Thus, AOL and exposure to English did not result in accent-free production of English vowels. It was argued that this result suggests that an AOL of less than 8 years and more than 7.5 years of formal instruction are needed to produce English vowels at a native-like level in a strictly formal learning context.
Part 2 concerns the acquisition of L2 consonants. Chapter 4, ''The impact of allophonic variation on L2 speech perception'' by Chiara Celata, investigates the Western Tuscan participants' discrimination of the Russian /s/ versus /ts/ contrast. The results of two-alternative forced choice identification tasks displayed a significant allophonic effect for the discrimination of both native and nonnative post-sonorant stimuli. Chapter 5, ''Perception and production in the acquisition of L2 phonemic contrasts'' by Fred R. Eckman, Gregory K. Iverson, Robert Allen Fox, Ewa Jacewicz, and Soyoung Lee, examines the perception and production of the English /s/ versus /š/ contrast in English by Korean and Japanese EFL learners. In Korean, [s] and [š] are allophones and [s] becomes [š] when it is before [i], while in Japanese there is a surface contrast between /s/ and /š/ before [a,o,u], but only [s] surfaces before [e] and only [š] before [i]. Two hypotheses were proposed. Hypothesis 1: in the production data, a subject's interlanguage grammar will evidence a contrast between /s/ and /š/ in derived environments only if the contrast is found also in basic environments. Hypothesis 2: in the perception data, an interlanguage grammar may show the contrast between /s/ and /š/ in derived environments without also having it in the basic environments. Hypothesis 1 was supported in the results from the Korean subjects, while the second hypothesis was confirmed by both Japanese and Korean subjects. The difference in the production performance of Korean and Japanese subjects can be accounted for by the differences in the phonemic status of /s/ and /š/ in the two native languages.
Chapter 6, ''Production and perception of voicing contrasts in English word-final obstruents: Assessing the effects of experience and starting age'' by Nataliza Fullana and Joan C. Mora, examines the production and perception of the voicing contrast in English word-final obstruents by Catalan EFL learners, as well as the effect of age of onset (AOL) and experience in English on the perception and production. The AXB discrimination task shows that neither AOL nor experience had a significant effect on the correct discrimination for obstruent contrasts, and that learners discriminated the three pairs of contrasts(i.e., /s/-/z/, /p/-/b/, and /t/-/d/) at similarly high rates and late learners resembled native speakers. Production of the obstruent contrasts also displayed non-significance with respect to AOL and exposure to English. However, earlier learners resembled native speakers in that they produced slightly shorter voiced and longer voiceless consonants in word-final position. But, an increase in exposure did not result in learners consistently using vowel duration as a cue to voicing in word-final obstruents. It was pointed out that the quality of input should be taken into consideration when AOL and exposure are being examined.
Chapter 7, ''Francophone ESL learners' difficulties with English /h/'' by Paul John and Walcir Cardoso, deals with Francophone ESL (English as a Second Language) learners' difficulties with English /h/. More specifically, this study examines the linguistic and extralinguistic factors that trigger the occurrence of h-epenthesis in ESL. It was found that h-epenthesis occurs more frequently in the stressed syllables, in words preceded by vowels or pause, in the presence of another [h] in proximity, and in more formal styles of speech, and that h-epenthesis rates rise and then fall as a function of increased proficiency. Lexical confusion (francophones' uncertainty as to which words are supposed to contain /h/) and francophones' desire to produce the prestige marker (i.e., adding [h]), were proposed to account for the distribution patterns of h-epenthesis.
Chapter 8, ''The use of visual cues in the perception of English syllable-final nasals by Brazilian EFL learners'' by Denise Cristina Kluge, Mara Silvia Reis, Denize Nobre-Oliveira, and Melissa Bettoni, investigates the effect of visual cues on the perception of English syllable-final nasals by Brazilian EFL learners. The results showed that the perception of /m/ and /n/ is the easiest in the audio-video condition, then in the video-only condition, and the most difficult in the audio-only condition. Also the preceding vowel influenced the perception of English coda nasals; namely, a lower vowel favored identification of the alveolar nasal /n/, while a high vowel disfavored the identification of /m/.
Part 3 focuses on the acquisition of syllable structure. Chapter 9, ''Perceptual training in the pronunciation of /s/-clusters in Brazilian Portuguese/English interphonology'' by Messia Bettoni and Rosana D. Koerich, deals with the effects of perceptual training on the epenthesis and voicing of /s/-clusters by Brazilian Portuguese EFL learners. The results show that perceptual training improved both perception and production, that the improvement was retained after five months, and that there was transfer of improvement to unfamiliar talkers and to untrained words. Chapter 10, ''When input frequency patterns fail to drive learning: The acquisition of sC onset clusters'' by Walcir Cardoso and Denis Liakin, examines the acquisition of sC (C for consonant) onset clusters by Brazilian Portuguese ESL learners. The Sonority Sequencing Principle (SSP, that is, ''in any syllable, there is a segment constituting the syllable peak [usually a vowel] that is preceded and/or followed by a sequence of segments with progressively decreasing sonority values'' (Selkirk 1984: 116)) predicts that the markedness hierarch is /st/ > /sl/ > /sn/, which means that /st/ would be acquired the last. However, corpus analysis shows that /st/ has much higher frequency than /sl/, and /sl/ than /sn/; thus, /st/ is predicted to develop before /sl/ and /sn/ in L2. To test the validity of these two predictions, data containing these sC clusters were collected using a picture-naming production task. The results show that the sC clusters develop as a function of increased proficiency and, more importantly, that the development of sC clusters follows a path similar to that predicted by markedness (SSP) effects, not frequency effects.
Chapter 11, ''The variable perception of /s/ + coronal onset clusters in Brazilian Portuguese English'' by Walcir Cardoso, Paul John and Leif French, examines the variable development in perception of English /s/+coronal onset clusters by the Brazilian Portuguese (BP) speakers with no previous exposure, and by ESL learners of different proficiency levels. A perception test with BP speakers with no previous exposure of English shows that these listeners could decide whether the words they heard begin with /st/, /sl/, or /sn/. It was argued that these listeners resorted to phonetic processing in this task due to the lack of these clusters in BP. A second test with BP learners of English of different proficiency levels showed that both proficiency and sonority sequencing had significant conditioning effects on the variable perception of English sC clusters. It was argued that, rather than markedness or perceptual salience, it is input frequency that predicts the sequence in which sC perception is likely to develop. The findings in Chapters 10 and 11 showed that perception and production of sC clusters do not go in tandem. It was suggested that ''two phonological grammars are necessary to explain the perception/production dichotomy.'' (p. 225)
Chapter 12, ''Interaction of L2 phonotactics and L1 syllable structure in L2 vowel production'' by Juli Cebrian, investigates the acquisition of segmental and nonsegmental structure by looking at the acquisition of the English tense-lax vowel contrast by native speakers of Catalan, a language with no segmental tense-lax contrast and no syllabic restrictions on vowels. Experiment 1 shows that L2 learners display some knowledge of the lower vowel constraint (LVC, which restricts lax vowels, but not tense vowels, to closed syllables), although to a lesser extent than native speakers. Experiment 2 shows that knowledge of the LVC does not result in target-like syllabification of medial consonants. English native speakers resort to coda syllabification of intervocalic consonants to prevent a lax vowel in an open syllable, while Catalan learners syllabify English words following L1 principles.
Chapter 13, ''Factors influencing the VOT of English long lag stops and interlanguage phonology'' by Mehmet Yavas, examines the effects of place of articulation and the height of vowels on the amount of aspiration in the stops by ESL Spanish learners. Two hypotheses were tested. Hypothesis 1: Voice onset time (VOT) will increase as the place of articulation moves from front to back; Spanish learners have least difficult with the bilabial /p/, more with alveolar /t/, and most with velar /k/. Hypothesis 2: VOT will increase more significantly when the target stop occurs before high vowels than before low vowels. Hypothesis 1 was confirmed in all pairs except between alveolars and velars when preceding low vowels. Hypothesis 2 was confirmed in bilabials and velars, but not in alveolars.
Finally, Part 4 concerns strings above the syllable and general issues in second language acquisition. Chapter 14, ''First language attrition in foreign accent detection'' by Roy C. Major and Barbara O. Baptista, concerns language attrition and perception of foreign accent in L1 and L2. It was found that BP native speakers residing in Brazil and those living in the USA could both identify native speakers from non-native speakers, indicating no L1 attrition. But, there is L1 attrition in BP listeners' ratings of non-native speakers. It was found that the country of residence seemed to be a more important factor than being a native or non-native listener, which means that continued exposure to native speakers' speech is important to achieving native-like perception of foreign accent.
Chapter 15, ''Investigating the role of orthography in the acquisition of L2 pronunciation: A case study'' by Rosane Silveira, discusses the effect of orthography on the pronunciation of L2 English word-final consonants in a 44-year-old Brazilian social science professor. The results suggested a strong effect of L1/L2 grapho-phonic-phonological transfer. It was also found that the pronunciation of some word-final consonants was more commonly affected by orthography than others. Another finding is that various factors affect the production of consonants: previous experience, L1 spelling-sound correspondences, cognate words, words with irregular pronunciation, phonotactic rules, and task type;
Chapter 16, ''The impact of voice quality resetting on the perception of a foreign accent in third language acquisition'' by Magdalena Wrembel, investigates the impact of voice quality resetting (due to L2 German) on the perception of a foreign accent in the third language (English) acquisition by Polish speakers. The findings corroborate Hammarberg and Hammarberg's (1993, 2005) results concerning the dominating effect of L2 on L3 phonological acquisition. The partial reliance on L2 phonetic encoding at early stages of L3 phonological acquisition was claimed to be a copying strategy that outweighs L1 transfer, which diminishes with the increase in L3 proficiency and gradual approximating to the target norm.
Finally, Chapter 17, ''Perception of Norwegian word tones by Chinese and German listeners'' by Wim A. Van Dommelen and Olaf Husby, examines the perception of Norwegian word tone by Chinese and German listeners. Results show that Chinese listeners outperformed the Germans with generally higher rates of correct responses. Discrimination performance for the German group was also substantially higher than chance level. These results were attributed to the fact that the Norwegian tone system has merely two different tonal melodies. Another reason is that the German listeners judged the stimuli using psychoacoustic rather than linguistic criteria.
EVALUATION This collection provides a set of state-of-the-art studies in the acquisition of L2 phonetics and phonology. All the papers describe careful empirical research and, they will be of great interest to anyone working in L2 phonetic/phonological acquisition and experimental phonetics. While all the studies are experimental in nature, some adopt approaches to data elicitation from sociolinguistics. Therefore, this book will also be of interest to sociolinguists, especially sociophoneticians. Given the coverage of segments (i.e., vowels and consonants), syllable structure, orthography, foreign accent ratings, and suprasgmentals (i.e., tones), the range should inspire more new research in second language acquisition (SLA). Still, it is a great pity that no single study in this collection treats the acquisition of L2 prosody (stress, prosodic phrasing, intonation, etc.). Due to the wider span of prosodic phenomena (i.e., those spanning more than a syllable), the acquisition of prosody may pose unique difficulties for L2 learners. In L2 pronunciation, prosody is as important as -- if not more important than -- consonants and vowels (Yang 2011).
One concern is that readers new to SLA may have some difficulty understanding the experimental design of some studies. For example, many perceptual studies adopted the AXB discrimination tasks. However, without prior knowledge of such perception experiments, some readers may have difficulty following the discussion. Moreover, the approaches to data elicitation in different studies are varied. Thus, it would be advisable to include an overview of methodology of perception and production studies in SLA, including but not limited to such topics as different approaches to data elicitation in production studies, including their weaknesses and strengths, as well as discrimination and identification tasks used in perceptual studies. With this background, it would be easier for readers to better understand the studies in the collection.
Finally, in spite of such small drawbacks, this collection of papers will prove to be a great resource for those working on the acquisition of L2 phonetics and phonology. Not only will these studies contribute to the development of second language acquisition research, they will also benefit theoretical linguistics and yield new insight into general issues in linguistics, such as what characterizes the phonological space of the bilinguals, and how is it different from that of the monolinguals, etc.
REFERENCES Hammarberg, B. and B. Hammarberg. (1993). Articulatory re-setting in the acquisition of new languages. Phonum 2,61-67.
Hammarberg, B. and B. Hammarberg. (2005). Resetting the basis of articulation in the acquisition of new languages: A third-language case study. In B. Hufeisen and R. Fouser (eds.), Introductory Readings in L3 (pp. 11-18). Tubingen: Stauffenburg.
Selkirk, E. (1984). On the major class features and syllable theory. In M Aronoff and R. Oerhle (eds.), Language Sound Structure (pp. 107-136). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Yang, C. (2011). The Acquisition of Mandarin Prosody by American Learners of Chinese as a Foreign Language (CFL). Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation. The Ohio State University.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Chunsheng Yang has a PhD in Chinese linguistics. His research interests are
phonetics, phonology, language pedagogy, and second language acquisition
(especially the acquisition of second language prosody). Currently he is a
lecturer in Chinese at Whitman College, and will begin to work at
Northwestern University this fall.