The Perceptual and Production Training of /d, tap, r/ in L2 Spanish: Behavioral, Psycholinguistic, and Neurolinguistic Evidence
University of Kansas
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When native speakers of American English begin learning Spanish, their acquisition of native-like pronunciation can be hampered by the tap - trill distinction in words like coro `choir' and corro `I run'. The trill proves difficult because it does not exist in English. Although the tap exists as an allophone of /t/ and /d/ in English words like `writer' and `rider', students of Spanish must learn to process it as a phoneme rather than an allophone. Similarly, learners have difficulty acquiring the spirantization of voiced stops, where the /d/ in codo `elbow' is produced as a voiced dental fricative or approximant, which is more like the `th' sound in English. This study investigates whether American English-speaking learners of Spanish can be trained to perceive and produce the intervocalic tap, trill, and /d/ contrasts in Spanish. Participants were trained using both perceptual and production training methods. Past research has reported that perceptual training alone improves both perception and production and that production training alone improves both as well, but the production training studies have not been limited to production as trainees have been able to listen to the training stimuli. This study is important because it systematically controls both training modalities so that they can be directly compared and introduces a third training methodology that includes both perception and production to discover whether perceptual training, production training, or a combination of the two is most effective. This study also uses cross-modal priming and ERP data in addition to traditional tasks (identification and production tasks) to evaluate the effect of training, an innovative use of both tasks to determine if trainees not only perceive and produce the trained L2 contrasts but also if they unconsciously process these contrasts and if they have built new phonemic categories for these sounds. All three training paradigms improved English learners' perception or production. While production trainees did not improve in their overall perception and declined in their perception of one contrast, perception trainees improved in their production and overall perception, indicating that perception training transfers more effectively than production training.
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