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Identifying Plosives in L2 English

The Case of L1 Cypriot Greek Speakers


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 Two: Review of the literature



Second language acquisition (SLA) research investigates how proficiency is attained in a language acquired subsequent to the L1 (first language). During the 1950s and 1960s, the emphasis of SLA was pedagogic, namely, on improving the ways in which a L2 (second language) was taught. Nonetheless, from the 1970s on, there has been a shifting emphasis from the teacher to the language user. This can be attributed to the changes occurring in the areas of linguistics, psychology, and L1 acquisition that are of crucial importance for SLA study. These areas “shifted focus from the external to the internal in the 1960s” (Archibald 1998: 1). The outcome was that linguistics started to account for what the adult L2 users3 try to acquire (L2) and what they know already (L1). The emphasis of psychology was placed on how users acquire knowledge while L1 acquisition started providing several findings that can productively be applied to SLA.

This chapter provides an overview of the major issues and findings in research on second language phonology, which is the focus of this study. First, theory and research on linguistic constraints is presented with reference to developmental effects, L1 transfer, markedness, and linguistic environment. Research and the approach of second language phonology, the causes for fossilisation of the L2 pronunciation, and two models for L2 phonological acquisition based on the interaction of transfer and developmental factors are discussed. Additionally, research on speech perception is addressed and the major theories of speech...

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