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The Attainment of an English Accent

British and American Features in Advanced German Learners

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Alexander Kautzsch

This book investigates inconsistencies in the accent adopted by advanced German learners of English with respect to differences between standard American and British English (rhoticity, t-voicing, the vowels in the lexical sets «bath», «lot» and «thought»). From a theoretical point of view, the volume contributes to understanding the status of L1 transfer in language learners at «ultimate attainment», a stabilized, late stage in language acquisition. Unlike in many studies in second language acquisition, the approach taken here is variationist, taking into account extra- and intra-linguistic factors as potential explanations for variability. The findings suggest that in addition to the target accent the strongest external factor is time spent abroad, while L1 accent and proficiency level seem to have minor impact only.

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3 British English, American English and German: Cross-linguistic comparison and transfer opportunities for German learners

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Having laid the theoretical foundations for the study at hand, the present section sets the stage for the empirical analysis, where the inconsistent realizations of prominent pronunciation differences between British English (BrE) and American English (AmE) (cf. e.g. Cruttenden 2008: 84–85, 2014: 87–88; Wells 1982: 122–127) by advanced German learners of English will be investigated. In this context, BrE and AmE accents are understood as the socially and regionally unmarked accents of educated speakers20. ← 39 | 40 →

In what follows, a cross-linguistic comparison between BrE and AmE will be given for rhoticity and the related phenomenon of linking (3.1), t-voicing (3.2), the vowel in the lexical set21 BATH (3.3), and the distinction between the lexical sets LOT and THOUGHT (3.3.3). Further, these features will be contrasted with the German sound system in order to identify similarities between BrE, AmE, and German and thus L1 transfer opportunities for German learners when acquiring one of the two English reference accents.

3.1 Rhoticity and linking 22

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