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LINGUIST List 16.2596

Sat Sep 10 2005

Diss: Lang Acquisition/Phonetics: Mayr: 'The ...'

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        1.    Robert Mayr, The Perception and Production of German Monophthongs by British Learners of German

Message 1: The Perception and Production of German Monophthongs by British Learners of German
Date: 08-Sep-2005
From: Robert Mayr <r_mayrhotmail.com>
Subject: The Perception and Production of German Monophthongs by British Learners of German

Institution: University of Sheffield
Program: Department of Human Communication Sciences/ Department of Germanic Studies
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005

Author: Robert A. Mayr

Dissertation Title: The Perception and Production of German Monophthongs by British Learners of German

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                            German, Standard (deu)

Dissertation Director:
Sara Howard
Regina Weinert

Dissertation Abstract:

This study investigates the perception and production of fourteen
monophthongal German vowels by British learners of German. Its central
concern is to gather information on native English learners' ability to
perceive and produce L2 German vowels and to test influential theoretical
models in second-language speech.

L2 speech production was assessed acoustically as well as in a
forced-choice identification experiment and in a foreign-accent rating
experiment. L2 speech perception was assessed in the form of an AXB oddity
discrimination experiment containing cross-linguistic contrasts and in a
forced-choice identification experiment. Furthermore, the perceptual
relation between German and English phones was determined in a perceptual
assimilation experiment. Contrary to most previous studies, the acoustic
analyses not only assessed the learners' L2 vowels but also their native
English categories.

The results suggest that the learners are by and large incapable of
producing the L2 vowels accurately. They tended to produce L2 vowels in a
more open and more fronted way than native German speakers. They also
failed to produce the front rounded vowels with sufficient degrees of
lip-rounding and were not adequately responsive to the duration differences
between German tense and lax vowels. An acoustic comparison of German and
English vowels also showed that learners commonly transferred vowels from
native categories, thereby exhibiting a variety of different patterns that
are, in part, a reflection of their native L1 accent.

With respect to perception, the results suggest that learners not only
failed to discriminate German-English contrasts consistently, which
suggests native-language transfer, but also often failed to distinguish
between different L2 categories. The results also showed that more
experienced learners produced and perceived the German vowels more
accurately than less experienced ones.

In theoretical terms, the results suggest that extensions and modifications
of theoretical models are necessary, in particulr with respect to Flege's
speech learning model. The study shows, for instance, that while dissimilar
phones are less likely to be transferred from native categories, they are
more difficult than similar ones with respect to the native L2 target norm.
Flege's claim that similar phones are generally more difficult than
dissimilar ones could therefore not be substantiated.

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