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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Perception and Production of German Monophthongs by British Learners of German Add Dissertation
Author: Robert May Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Sheffield, Department of Human Communication Sciences/ Department of Germanic Studies
Completed in: 2005
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonetics; Language Acquisition;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Sara Howard
Regina Weinert

Abstract: This study investigates the perception and production of fourteen monophthongal German vowels by British learners of German. Its central concern is to gather information on native English learners' ability to perceive and produce L2 German vowels and to test influential theoretical models in second-language speech.

L2 speech production was assessed acoustically as well as in a forced-choice identification experiment and in a foreign-accent rating experiment. L2 speech perception was assessed in the form of an AXB oddity discrimination experiment containing cross-linguistic contrasts and in a forced-choice identification experiment. Furthermore, the perceptual relation between German and English phones was determined in a perceptual assimilation experiment. Contrary to most previous studies, the acoustic analyses not only assessed the learners' L2 vowels but also their native English categories.

The results suggest that the learners are by and large incapable of producing the L2 vowels accurately. They tended to produce L2 vowels in a more open and more fronted way than native German speakers. They also failed to produce the front rounded vowels with sufficient degrees of lip-rounding and were not adequately responsive to the duration differences between German tense and lax vowels. An acoustic comparison of German and English vowels also showed that learners commonly transferred vowels from native categories, thereby exhibiting a variety of different patterns that are, in part, a reflection of their native L1 accent.

With respect to perception, the results suggest that learners not only failed to discriminate German-English contrasts consistently, which suggests native-language transfer, but also often failed to distinguish between different L2 categories. The results also showed that more experienced learners produced and perceived the German vowels more accurately than less experienced ones.

In theoretical terms, the results suggest that extensions and modifications of theoretical models are necessary, in particulr with respect to Flege's speech learning model. The study shows, for instance, that while dissimilar phones are less likely to be transferred from native categories, they are more difficult than similar ones with respect to the native L2 target norm. Flege's claim that similar phones are generally more difficult than dissimilar ones could therefore not be substantiated.