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The Attainment of an English Accent

British and American Features in Advanced German Learners


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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6 Results: The realizations of salient differences between BrE and AmE by advanced German learners


In this chapter, the English consonant and vowel data obtained from the diagnostic text “Comma gets a cure” and the German vowel data elicited from “München” are analyzed empirically. The sub-chapters 6.1 and 6.2 deal with rhoticity / linking and t-voicing, respectively, while 6.3 presents the results of the acoustical analyses of BATH (6.3.1) and LOT and THOUGHT (6.3.2) and the relevant German vowels.

The two consonant sections are structured alike. After general assessments of overall frequencies, the effects of extra- and intra-linguistic variables are presented by means of descriptive statistics first (,, 6.2.1) and then summarized and tested for significances by means of Rbrul (,, 6.2.2). The sub-chapters on the vowel features also have a parallel set-up. After an acoustical comparison of the BrE and AmE vowels to German vowel space (,, the realization of the English vowels by German learners is investigated independently (, Finally, the native English vowels are compared to the English vowels as produced by the Germans and to the relevant German vowels (, Sorting the data by L1 accent region and proficiency and then by time spent abroad ultimately aims at identifying effects of external factors on the advanced learners’ degree of approximation to their target accent and on L1 transfer.

An extensive summary and a comprehensive discussion of all results from different perspectives are given in chapter 7.

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