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A Dynamic Look At L2 Phonological Learning: Seeking Processing Explanations for Implicational Phenomena

by Pavel Trofimovich, Elizabeth Gatbonton, Norman Segalowitz
Studies in Second Language Acquisition ()
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This study investigates whether second language (L2) phonological learning can be characterized as a gradual and systematically patterned replacement of nonnative segments by native segments in learners' speech, conforming to a two-stage implicational scale. We adopt a dynamic approach to language variation based on Gatbonton's (1975, 1978) gradual diffusion framework. Participants were 40 Quebec Francophones of different English proficiency levels who produced 80 tokens of English in eight phonetic contexts. In Analysis 1, production accuracy data are subjected to implicational scaling, with phonetic contexts ordered solely by a linguistic criterion—sonority hierarchy. In Analysis 2, the production accuracy data are similarly analyzed but with phonetic context ordering determined by psycholinguistic (processing) criteria—cross-language perceptual similarity and corpus-based estimates of lexical frequency. Results support and extend Gatbonton's framework, which indicates that L2 phonological learning progresses gradually, conforming to an implicational scale, and that perceived cross-language similarity and lexical frequency determine its course.This research was made possible through grants to Pavel Trofimovich, Norman Segalowitz, and Elizabeth Gatbonton from the Social Sciences and the Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and support from the Centre for the Study of Learning and Performance at Concordia University. The authors gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Melanie Barrière and Randall Halter in all aspects of data collection and analysis. Many thanks are extended to Dawn Cleary, Winnie Grady, Eva Karchava, Nootan Kumar, Magnolia Negrete Cetina, and Alin Zdrite for their help in various stages of this study. The authors wish to thank Tracey Derwing and Murray Munro for sharing their speech elicitation materials. Sarita Kennedy, Randall Halter, and five anonymous SSLA reviewers provided helpful suggestions on earlier drafts of this manuscript.

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