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Languages 2018, 3(2), 12; https://doi.org/10.3390/languages3020012

The Mixed Effects of Phonetic Input Variability on Relative Ease of L2 Learning: Evidence from English Learners’ Production of French and Spanish Stop-Rhotic Clusters

1
Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Toronto, 91 Charles St W, Toronto, ON M5S 2C7, Canada
2
Department of French Studies, University of Toronto, 50 St Joseph Street, Toronto, ON M5S 1J4, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 9 January 2018 / Revised: 9 April 2018 / Accepted: 13 April 2018 / Published: 24 April 2018
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Abstract

We examined the consequences of within-category phonetic variability in the input on non-native learners’ production accuracy. Following previous empirical research on the L2 acquisition of phonetics and the lexicon, we tested the hypothesis that phonetic variability facilitates learning by analyzing English-speaking learners’ production of French and Spanish word-medial stop-rhotic clusters, which differ from their English counterparts in terms of stop and rhotic voicing and manner. Crucially, for both the stops and rhotics, there are differences in within-language variability. Twenty native speakers per language and 39 L1 English-learners of French (N = 20) and Spanish (N = 19) of intermediate and advanced proficiency performed a carrier-sentence reading task. A given parameter was deemed to have been acquired when the learners’ production fell within the range of attested native speaker values. An acoustic analysis of the data partially supports the facilitative effect of phonetic variability. To account for the unsupported hypotheses, we discuss a number of issues, including the difficulty of measuring variability, the need to determine the extent to which learners’ perception shapes intake, and the challenge of teasing apart the effects of input variability from those of transferred L1 articulatory patterns. View Full-Text
Keywords: input; variability; relative difficulty; second language production; consonant clusters; stops; rhotics; phonetic parameters; voicing; manner input; variability; relative difficulty; second language production; consonant clusters; stops; rhotics; phonetic parameters; voicing; manner
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Colantoni, L.; Steele, J. The Mixed Effects of Phonetic Input Variability on Relative Ease of L2 Learning: Evidence from English Learners’ Production of French and Spanish Stop-Rhotic Clusters. Languages 2018, 3, 12.

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