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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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7 Summary and discussion


This chapter gives a threefold summary of the overall findings obtained in the quantitative analyses in chapter 6. First, section 7.1 presents the combined findings for each linguistic feature in turn. Then these results are viewed in the light of the research questions asked in chapter 4. To that end, section 7.2 discusses the influence that the two target accents BrE and AmE as such and the other independent, extra-linguistic variables L1 accent region, proficiency, and time spent abroad exert on the realization of the features under observation. Finally, section 7.3 interprets the findings with respect to the status of L1 transfer at a presumably stabilized stage of targetlike attainment.

7.1 Linguistic features

7.1.1 Rhoticity

Starting with rhoticity (cf. chapter 6.1.1), the first result pertains to the phonetic level, i.e. to the allophonic realization of the phoneme /r/ as a consonant. Here, all speakers use post-alveolar approximants, and therefore none of the German allophones of /r/, which implies that L1 transfer on the phonetic level of rhoticity does not take place in the German speakers under scrutiny.

As concerns the phonological side, i.e. the question of a rhotic or non-rhotic realization of non-prevocalic /r/, it has been shown that the overall rhoticity rate in the AmE native speakers is, unsurprisingly, significantly higher than in their BrE counterparts, although a categorical pattern, i.e. full rhoticity for the Americans and full non-rhoticity for the British, has only been confirmed for the latter...

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