Perception and Production of Intonation among English-Spanish Bilingual Speakers at Different Proficiency Levels
This dissertation examined the perception and production of intonation among 55 English-native speakers of Spanish at three proficiency levels (low, high, and very high). Their performance was compared with monolingual speakers of Spanish (n=17) and English (n=17), and English-Spanish early bilinguals (heritage speakers, n=16). The target form was the intonational contour in neutral declarative utterances in Spanish, examined at two tonal events, namely prenuclear peak alignment and final boundary tone height. The study adhered to the theoretical principles of the Autosegmental-Metrical approach (Beckman & Pierrehumbert, 1986; Pierrehumbert, 1980, 2000). Participants completed an imitation task aimed at locating potential categorical shifts in the perception of both tonal events and two production tasks varying in speaking style (sentence reading and storytelling). Results revealed a marked contrast between Spanish and English in perception and production of both tonal events. Spanish speakers generally preferred later alignment of prenuclear peaks and lower height of final boundary tone. In turn, second language (L2) and early bilingual speakers tended to produce values in the middle range between Spanish and English. Performance of low-proficiency speakers generally approximated English monolingual speakers, while L2 speakers of very high proficiency produced values at the same level of heritage speakers under most measures. As regards the role of speaking style in production, some minor effects were found in prenuclear alignment, while no effects were obtained in final boundary tone. A strong relationship between production and perception was also found for prenuclear alignment but not for final boundary tone. Results also seemed to support some predictions made by the Speech Learning Model (Flege, 1995). Findings are discussed from the point of view of cross-linguistic influence, effects of high proficiency on L2 phonology, tonal representations for Spanish and English, and the link between production and perception in L2 prosody.
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