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Review of  Typen und Frequenzen von L2-Merkmalen im Deutschen als Zweitsprache

Reviewer: Franka Kermer
Book Title: Typen und Frequenzen von L2-Merkmalen im Deutschen als Zweitsprache
Book Author: Evghenia Goltsev
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
Subject Language(s): German
Language Family(ies): Germanic
Issue Number: 31.1069

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Goltsev, Evghenia (2019). Typen und Frequenzen von L2-Merkmalen im Deutschen als Zweitsprache. Wahrnehmung, Bewertung und Verständlichkeit. Berlin/Boston: DeGruyter.

This thesis represents an investigation of the linguistic influence on intelligibility and attitude in an L2 variety. In particular, this well written study offers empirical data about German native speaker’s perception and judgement of Russian speaker’s erroneous use of L2 German on the one hand and explores the intelligibility of the language production of Russian speakers of L2 German on the other. The thesis is divided into four parts, including a review on some earlier work on L2 perception and language transfer more generally as well as a methodological explanation of how Goltsev conducted her experimental study (Chapter 2), the design of the study, including data collection and statistical assessment (Chapter 3), the results and analysis of the data (Chapter 4), and a discussion that evaluates the results in light of earlier works as well as the successes and shortcomings of her study (Chapter 5).

Chapter 1 introduces the basic goals by Goltsev, viz. the goal of exploring how and whether forms specific to the L2 influence the perception and judgement of that L2 variety and how other factors, such as the overall frequency of specific L2 forms, gender of and regional variety spoken by the German native speakers affect their perception and judgement of L2 language production.

Chapter 2 and 3 is background materials, including a short review of the theoretical background and an in-depth description of the literature about language attitudes, which includes the concept of perception, and intelligibility, as well as a thorough account on the methodological tools chosen for this experimental design, which includes the use of audio stimuli, a judgement test and background questionnaire. She also introduces her research hypotheses and corresponding research questions, all together five hypotheses and 15 questions, pointing to the in-depth character of her thesis. Goltsev’s perspective is that (i) an increasing frequency of L2 error types increases negative judgement and unintelligibility, and (ii) an increasing frequency of one L2 error type results in negative judgement but does not necessarily influence ease of understanding. Furthermore, she hypothesised that (iii) male speakers and speakers from the northern part of Germany would associate high frequency of L2 errors with unintelligibility, which, consequently, would evoke more negative reactions of the native speakers. The materials consist of texts specifically tailored for this study. The texts are modified to include those L2 errors that are specific to Russian speakers of German, particularly in the domains of phonology, morphology, lexis and syntax. The raters, 205 native speakers of German, were tested in two groups in a quiet room and performed the rating tasks (evaluating of the texts for lexical, grammatical, phonological properties/errors) and filled out the background questionnaire.

Chapter 4 reports empirical data of the perception and judgement of grammatical, phonological or lexical forms in the German L2 variety. Goltsev makes use of the factor analysis to decipher native speaker’s judgment of these specific properties of L2 speech. She finds results that are in line with earlier findings on the perception of L2 speech. For example, raters’ judgements of the linguistic variable “pronunciation” shows that high frequency in L2 errors correlates significantly with a negative evaluation and lowers their understanding of accuracy and complexity. The analysis also yields a significant effect of gender, showing that errors in L2 speech were evaluated less harshly and not found to affect intelligibility by female raters. Lastly, the analysis yields a significant effect for region, suggesting that perception of L2 errors was less negative among speakers from the southern part of Germany compared to negative judgements among speakers from the northern part of Germany.

Chapter 5 summarises the results that were found earlier. The thesis aimed at an investigation into the relationship between frequency of errors in L2 speech and raters’ judgement. Goltsev concludes her thesis with a discussion that evaluates the failures and successes of her experiment. Goltsev’s recommendations for investigating errors in Russian speakers of L2 German provide valuable lessons for any professional interested in multilingualism and language attitudes.


The aim of this thesis is the empirical investigation of German native speaker’s perception and judgement of Russian speaker’s erroneous use of L2 German on the one hand and explores the intelligibility of the language production of Russian speakers of L2 German on the other. The motivation of this enterprise resides in the question how L2 errors in German as a foreign language are perceived and judged by native speakers of German. The value in Goltsev’s work here is that she demonstrates explicitly how the frequency and types of errors in L2 speech correlate with gender and place to address issues such as: do female speakers of L1 German judge deviant L2 structures differently than their male counterparts? Are raters’ judgments of erroneous L2 speech affected by the L1 speakers’ own regional variety? She finds, for example, that frequency of errors and frequency of error types influence raters’ judgement of L2 speech negatively. In particular, raters’ judgement of intelligibility is shown to be affected by erroneous L2 speech. Somewhat surprisingly, the study reveals that female raters were more lenient towards deviant L2 structures and easily understood erroneous L2 speech compared to their male counterparts. Furthermore, the findings indicate that the evaluation of pronunciation of Russian speakers of L2 German show an effect for gender: female speakers are judged more positively than the male speakers. As a result, Goltev argues, the results suggest that despite attempts to achieve L2 communicative success, Russian speakers’ of L2 German are faced with linguistic stereotyping. Listeners not only judge Russian speakers’ accent in L2 speech more negatively, they also attribute social identity to speakers, including their social status, intelligence or academic success. The power of prejudice in accent perception thus appears to be a prevalent factor in achieving L2 communicative success.

The study relies on theoretical approaches and methods primarily used in the study of English as a Foreign Language; applying these to the context of German as a Foreign Language is where Goltev’s study becomes so valuable. As Goltev rightly argues, her thesis represents an important contribution to the study of multilingualism in the context of German as a foreign language. Yet another valuable contribution of her work is the observation that certain aspects of multilingualism, such as positive perception of L2 varieties, can be translated into pedagogical guidelines.

This book is quite valuable for researchers working on L2 speech, language attitudes and perception and German as a foreign language. I add to the list of potential audiences by saying that this thesis is comprehensive enough to be a source for students in language programmes. That said, a reader looking for a theoretically informed account of multilingualism will not find one here; rather, the thesis is explicitly about the experimental study and its detailed analysis – by an expert classroom practitioner and language teaching expert. At times, the text feels repetitive and somewhat unclear; for example, Goltev presents and discusses five research hypotheses and 15 research questions, which make the chapter on the results rather dense. This thorough analysis, on the other hand, shows her expertise in data management and statistical analyses.


Crowther D., Trofimovich P., Saito K., Isaacs T. (2014). Second language comprehensibility revisited: investigating the effects of learner background, TESOL Quarterly.
Rubin, D. (2012). The power of prejudice in accent perception: Reverse linguistic stereotyping and its impact on listener judgments and decisions. In. J. Levis & K. LeVelle (Eds.). Proceedings of the3rd Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, Sept. 2011. (pp. 11-17). Ames, IA: Iowa State University.

Format: Hardback
ISBN-13: 9783110630114
Pages: 342
Prices: U.S. $ 114.99