Second Language Acquisition

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Recent phonetic work on second language (L2) acquisition has focused on the influence of the native language (L1) on L2 learning by providing phonetic interpretations of non-native production and perception. Researchers have suggested that the weight of a feature used in L2, but not in L1, may create difficulties for L2 learners. A classic example of this problem is the difficulty that Japanese listeners experience in distinguishing English /r/ and /l/ phonemes, which are both mapped to the Japanese /l/ (McClelland et al., 1999). Several studies have also investigated whether native speakers of a tone language have an advantage over natisve speakers of a non-tone language in discriminating or acquiring tones from a tone language with which they have no prior experience. For example, Gottfried and Suiter (1997) found that adult native English speakers were less successful in learning lexical tones to signal phonological contrast, as this feature is not used in English, than they were in learning vowel quality in Mandarin. Also, Chinese speakers outperformed English speakers in their ability to distinguish two Thai tones both before and after training (Wayland & Guion, 2004). In addition, Peng et al. (2010) investigated the influence of different tone inventories (Mandarin vs. Cantonese) as well as tone language vs. non-tone language experience (German vs. Chinese) on the categorical perception of pitch contours in Mandarin syllables and non-speech contexts (e.g., pure tone).
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