Identifying Plosives in L2 English

The Case of L1 Cypriot Greek Speakers

by Elena Kkese (Author)
Monographs 334 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 217


This volume presents the results of two tasks examining the acquisition of plosive voicing contrasts in L2 English by college students with Cypriot Greek (CG) backgrounds. The tasks focus on the different factors affecting plosive identification and the types of errors involving plosives. With respect to the first issue, the phonetic perception of plosives turns out to be better in voiceless consonants compared to their voiced counterparts, thus providing evidence for the importance of the voicing contrast factor. With respect to the second issue, the results point to the same direction since it appears that L2 users performed significantly better in voiceless plosives. It is also indicated that they were able to perceive voiced plosives but they treated such instances as a /nasal+voiced plosive/sequence (prenasalised plosives). Therefore, the overall results seem to agree mostly with the speech perception approach suggesting that voiced plosives are realised differently in CG while the difficulties of the L2 CG users with plosives seem to be attributed to VOT differences between the L1 and the L2.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • Contents
  • List of figures
  • List of tables
  • Chapter One: Introduction
  • Introduction
  • 1. Factors affecting the identification of plosives
  • 2. Types of errors, second language phonology and speech perception
  • 2.1 Types of errors
  • 2.2 Second language phonology and speech perception
  • 3. Purpose of the study
  • 4. Research questions
  • 5. Significance of the study
  • 6. Definitions of key terms
  • 7. Assumptions, delimitations and limitations
  • 8. Organisation of the study
  • Summary
  • Chapter Two: Review of the literature
  • Introduction
  • 1. Second language phonology
  • 1.1 Investigating second language phonology
  • 1.2 The acquisition of phonology
  • 1.3 Linguistic constraints
  • 1.3.1 Linguistic universals
  • 1.3.2 Developmental processes
  • 1.3.3 L1 transfer
  • 1.3.4 Markedness
  • 1.3.5 Sensitivity to phonological and morphological environments
  • 1.3.6 Critical period hypothesis
  • 1.4 The ontogeny model
  • 1.4.1 Studies on the ontogeny model
  • 1.4.2 The ontogeny phylogeny model
  • 1.5 Causes of second language phonology fossilisation
  • 2. Speech perception
  • 2.1 Investigating speech perception
  • 2.2 Observations shaping theoretical thinking
  • 2.2.1 Categorical perception
  • 2.2.2 Phonetic context
  • 2.2.3 Visual context
  • 2.2.4 Lexical and sentential context
  • 2.3 Theories of speech perception: phonemic categorisation
  • 2.3.1 Motor theory
  • 2.3.2 Direct realist theory
  • 2.3.3 General approach
  • 2.4 Theories of speech perception: phonemic categorisation and lexical knowledge
  • 2.4.1 Top-down theories
  • 2.4.2 Bottom-up theories
  • 2.5 L2 speech perception
  • 3. The Cypriot Greek (CG) variety
  • 3.1 Cypriot Greek (CG)
  • 3.2 The phonological systems of CG and English in comparison
  • 4. Plosive consonants
  • 4.1 The plosive system of CG and English
  • 4.1.1 Voicing contrast
  • 4.1.2 Place of articulation
  • 4.1.3 Adjacent phoneme
  • 4.1.4 Lexical context
  • 4.1.5 Sentential context
  • Summary: second language phonology and speech perception approaches
  • Chapter Three: Research methodology
  • Introduction
  • 1. Research questions and hypotheses
  • 2. Research design
  • 2.1 Identification tasks
  • 3. Materials
  • 3.1 Stimuli
  • 3.1.1 Word identification task
  • 3.1.2 Words-in-sentences identification task
  • 3.1.3 Questionnaire
  • 4. Participants
  • 5. Procedure
  • 6. Data analysis strategy
  • 6.1 Coding of responses
  • 6.2 Cleaning and screening data
  • 6.3 Selecting a data analysis strategy
  • 6.4 Reliability and validity
  • 7. Ethical considerations
  • Summary
  • Chapter Four: Results
  • Introduction
  • 1. Demographics and students’ background data
  • 1.1 Participant exclusion criteria and English proficiency level
  • 1.1.1 2009 and 2010 participants
  • 1.1.2 2011 participants
  • 2. Quantitative results for research question 1
  • 2.1 Word identification task
  • Summary for the word identification task
  • 2.1.1 Rank order of the factors affecting plosive consonants identification
  • 2.2 Words-in-sentences identification task
  • Summary for the words-in-sentences Identification task
  • Summary for the word identification and Words-in-sentences identification tasks
  • 3. Quantitative results for research question 2
  • 3.1 Quantitative findings: types of errors in the Words-in-sentences identification task
  • Summary
  • Chapter Five: Discussion
  • Introduction
  • 1. Performance on the identification tasks 1 and 2 (factors identification)
  • 1.1 Interpretation of the results
  • 1.2 Relation to previous research findings
  • 1.3 Theoretical implications
  • 2. Performance on the words-in-sentences identification task (types of errors)
  • 2.1 Interpretation of the results
  • 2.2 Relation to previous research findings
  • 2.3 Theoretical implications
  • 3. CG users’ difficulties with L2 plosives: the result of second language phonology or speech perception approach
  • Summary
  • Chapter Six: Conclusion
  • Introduction
  • 1. Overall conclusion
  • 2. Pedagogical implications
  • 3. Future directions
  • Summary
  • References
  • Appendices
  • Appendix A: CG difficulties with L2 plosives
  • Appendix B: Word identification task – Version 1
  • Appendix C: Word identification task – Version 2
  • Appendix D: Words-in-sentences identification task
  • Appendix E: Background questionnaire
  • Appendix F: SPSS qutput of quantitative analysis
  • Appendix G: Descriptive statistics for the words-in-sentences identification task concerning performance of participants in terms of the four investigated factors in descending order (better performance in voiceless plosives)
  • Index
  • Series index

← 14 | 15 →

List of figures

← 16 | 17 →

List of tables

← 18 | 19 →

Chapter One: Introduction


Second language (L2) users often experience a great degree of difficulty identifying non-native phonological segments that do not occur or are realised differently in their first language (L1). These difficulties are believed to be related to a number of factors, such as the Universal Grammar (UG) and to linguistic constraints. Looking at plosive consonant identification by Cypriot Greek (henceforth CG) users of L2 English, this volume aims at identifying the several factors that influence the identification of plosives, at describing the types of errors with reference to plosives, and at providing a convincing justification for the difficulties faced by the L2 users in terms of plosive voicing distinctions. Specifically, in the effort to account for these difficulties, the approaches of second language phonology and speech perception seem to be particularly promising without implying that the two approaches are contrastive but it may be the case that these complete each other. The second language phonology approach suggests that these difficulties may be due to phonological challenges while the speech perception approach suggests that these may be due to phonetic effects since L2 users are not skilled at attending to the acoustic cue or set of cues that can reliably lead to the discrimination of the members of an L2 contrast.

The rationale for selecting these sounds stems from the fact that they constitute a problem for CG users of L2 English. This is because of the different phonetic and phonological plosive consonant systems of the two linguistic codes in terms of the number of plosive consonants and their acoustic identifications. In general, English is a 6-plosive consonant system consisting of /p b t d k g/1 whereas for CG ← 19 | 20 → the descriptions of plosives vary considerably. According to Arvaniti (2010), CG is an 8-plosive consonant system consisting of /p p ͪ : t t ͪ : c c ͪ : k k ͪ :/ (unaspirated and aspirated voiceless plosives) involving no voiced plosives, that is /b d g/. This explains why words like sign that in Standard Modern Greek (henceforth SMG) are pronounced as [ta'bella], in CG are pronounced as [ta'pella]. The same is observed with English words such as league [li:g] that is pronounced as [li:k] by CG users of L2 English (see also Appendix A p. 245). A comparison between the plosive consonants of the CG and English indicates the differences between the two linguistic codes based on place and manner of articulation (Table 1).

Table 1: CG and English plosives2.


Nonetheless, further descriptions maintain that voiced plosives do exist in CG (Okalidou et al. 2010; Botinis et al. 2004). Based on these accounts, the plosive consonants of CG can be divided into three voicing categories, namely, voiced unaspirated plosives, voiceless unaspirated plosives (singletons), and voiceless aspirated plosives (geminates). With reference to the first category (voiced unaspirated plosives), this involves prenasalised plosives whose underlying form consists of a /nasal+plosive/ cluster as in [kuˈmbi] (button). The second and third categories are distinguished based on consonant length (singletons vs. geminates) as indicated in the minimal pair [kuˈpi] (oar) and [kuˈph:i] (small bowl). As a result, plosive consonants in CG seem to differ considerably when compared to their English counterparts both in place of articulation and voicing. These differences may be the reason for the difficulties of L2 users when attempting to acquire the phonological system of English and specifically the L2 plosive system. ← 20 | 21 →


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (April)
second language phonology speech perception plosive consonants prenasalisation VOT
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2016. 317 pp.

Biographical notes

Elena Kkese (Author)

Elena Kkese is an Assistant Lecturer at UCLan, Cyprus and an English teacher. Undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of Cyprus (BA in English Language and Literature; MA in Applied Linguistics; PhD in Linguistics). Research interests include the difficulties of CG users concerning the L2 acquisition of English phonology with special emphasis on the plosive system.


Title: Identifying Plosives in L2 English
book preview page numper 1
book preview page numper 2
book preview page numper 3
book preview page numper 4
book preview page numper 5
book preview page numper 6
book preview page numper 7
book preview page numper 8
book preview page numper 9
book preview page numper 10
book preview page numper 11
book preview page numper 12
book preview page numper 13
book preview page numper 14
book preview page numper 15
book preview page numper 16
book preview page numper 17
book preview page numper 18
book preview page numper 19
book preview page numper 20
book preview page numper 21
book preview page numper 22
book preview page numper 23
book preview page numper 24
book preview page numper 25
book preview page numper 26
book preview page numper 27
book preview page numper 28
book preview page numper 29
book preview page numper 30
book preview page numper 31
book preview page numper 32
book preview page numper 33
book preview page numper 34
book preview page numper 35
book preview page numper 36
book preview page numper 37
book preview page numper 38
book preview page numper 39
book preview page numper 40
336 pages