Factors affecting English speakers' perception of L2 Spanish vowels
Gordon, Leslie S.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Georgetown University, 2008.; Includes bibliographical references. In the existing studies of the perceptual abilities of the English speaking learner of Spanish some important variables have been left unexplored. The first of these regards the difference in size of the vowel inventories of these two languages and the effect of the larger English inventory upon listeners' perception of the L2 Spanish inventory. Specifically, the English vowel inventory includes some vowel categories whose existence has been shown to interfere with the English speaker's perception of Spanish vowels (Bradlow 1995, 1996). Additionally, the duration and diphthongized quality of English tense vowels may exert an influence upon the perception of 'similar' Spanish vowels. Lastly, studies on the effects of training on vowel perception have shown mixed results, (Francis, et al., 2000; Jamieson & Morosan, 1989; Lisker, 1970; Logan & Pruitt, 1995; Pisoni et al., 1982; Strange & Dittman, 1984; Tees & Werker, 1984; Werker & Tees, 1984). The current study addresses the effects of vowel inventory size, acoustic differences and perceptual training measures upon the vowel perception of native English speakers learning L2 Spanish.; Participants were students of Spanish at the Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced levels, randomly assigned to one of three training groups: Vowel Duration, Vowel Diphthongization and Voiceless Consonant Aspiration (control). Listeners' perception of Spanish vowels was assessed in tests of Multiple Category Assimilation and Language Identification. Pretest results revealed that the larger L1 inventory does affect L2 vowel perception as participants at all levels exhibited a high frequency of Multiple Category Assimilation (MCA), or the mapping of one L2 vowel category to more than one L1 vowel category. In posttest measures all groups showed decreased instances of MCA, but no significant effect was found for Training group or Level of exposure to L2. Results for the Language Identification task showed that in posttest measures listeners were better able to identify English stimuli than Spanish stimuli, suggesting an increased ability to perceive the acoustic cues present in English vowels but absent in similar Spanish vowels. No significant effect of Training group or Level was found, although a significant effect of Time was found for most vowel stimuli.
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