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Identifying Plosives in L2 English

The Case of L1 Cypriot Greek Speakers

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Elena Kkese

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.

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Chapter One: Introduction

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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...

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