Typological rarity and apparent similarity to L1 as sources of difficulty for the development of pronunciation in Swedish as a second language
Memet Aktürk-Drake & Federica Raschellà, Uppsala University
In this cross-sectional study, we investigated the pronunciation development of 26 learners with Italian as their L1 and varying experience with Swedish as a second language (SSL). We divided the participants into three experience-based groups: beginners, speakers on an intermediate level and experienced speakers. We focused on accuracy of pronunciation in 8 vowels and 7 consonants. We investigated how different sources of difficulty such as typological rarity (PHOIBLE) as well as apparent phonetic (Flege 1995) and orthographic similarity to L1 interacted with experience. The participants pronounced single words in a picture-naming task. The pronunciation data were analysed auditively by two judges with Swedish and Italian as their respective mother tongues. The results suggest that increasing experience leads to more accurate segment pronunciation overall, but that different segments benefit from experience to different degrees depending on the source of difficulty. While orthographic similarity and typological rarity seem to complicate the acquisition of pronunciation for beginners, it is, instead, phonetic similarity that can account for the experienced speakers’ remaining difficulties. Since previous studies have shown that segment pronunciation is important for perceived nativelikeness in SSL (Kuronen & Zetterholm 2017), we conclude that pronunciation teaching needs to focus more on phonetic similarity.
Comprehensibility and accentedness of L2 English spoken by Finns: Key findings
Elina Tergujeff, University of Jyväskylä
This presentation is focussed on the key findings of a three-year project on L1 Finnish and L1 Finland-Swedish speakers’ L2 English that aimed to shed light on, e.g. (1) how English-speaking listeners ratethe speakers’ L2 English for comprehensibility and accentedness, (2) which speech features are linkedwith comprehensibility and/or accentedness, (3) the relationship between overall oral proficiency andcomprehensibility/accentedness, and (4) possibility of the shared language benefit applying to L2comprehensibility and accentedness.The project made use of speech materials that were gathered for the purposes of a national languageassessment. A selection of the materials were subjected to comprehensibility ratings with Englishspeakinglisteners and listeners who share the speakers’ L1. In addition, the speech samples wereanalysed for various speech features to seek connections between the features and the ratings. Theresults support earlier findings on the role of fluency and segmental accuracy for L2 comprehensibilityand accentedness, and the shared language benefit being language dependent. In addition, newknowledge was obtained about the relationship between overall oral proficiency andcomprehensibility/accentedness. The results imply that fluency features might deserve a strongerfoothold within language teaching and assessment.
MultiFluency: Multilingual speakers’ fluency across Swedish, Finnish, and English
Pauliina Peltonen & Pekka Lintunen, University of Turku
Speech fluency has been widely studied as a component of L2 oral proficiency. However, studiescomparing L1 and L2 fluency from the same speakers are relatively rare, and multilingual learners’fluency has been studied even less. In the present study, we examined multilingual speakers’fluency across Swedish, Finnish, and English among Swedish-speaking (Group 1) and Finnishspeakinguniversity students (Group 2) in Finland. We focused on the differences in fluencybetween the groups and the connections across the participants’ L1 and L2 productions fromquantitative and qualitative perspectives.The study is part of a project “MultiFluency”. From the project data set, 90 monologue speechsamples in Finnish (L1/L2), Swedish (L1/L2), and English (L2) from the two groups (N=30) wereanalyzed for temporal fluency (e.g., articulation rate; silent pause frequency, duration, andlocation) and stalling mechanisms (e.g., filler words, drawls). The results demonstrated minordifferences between the groups regarding Finnish (L1/L2) and English (L2) fluency, but cleardifferences in Swedish (L1/L2) fluency. L1 speech fluency was also found to correlate with L2fluency, but the connections varied across languages and depending on the participants’ L1.
Beliefs about Orthographic Diacritics: Effects on L2 vowel acquisition
Mara Haslam, Stockholm University
In Swedish the letters “å” “ä” and “ö” are considered separate letters of the alphabet from “a” and “o”, but English speakers often seem to have trouble distinguishing the vowel sounds that these letters represent in perception and production. This study hypothesizes that difficulty in vowel acquisition is connected to the fact that English speakers do not see “å”, “ä”, and “ö” as separate letters of the alphabet from “a” and “o”. Polish has a similar vowel inventory to English in relation to Swedish, but written Polish uses letters with diacritics, while written English uses unadorned letters of the Latin alphabet. In this study native Polish speakers and native English speakers are taught Swedish words containing the vowel sounds in question along with their orthographic representations, then tested on their perception and production of the target words. In addition, their beliefs about whether certain orthographic characters are the same or different are tested. Their results will also be compared to the performance of native Swedish controls. Previous results show that Polish speakers outperformed English speakers on vowel acquisition and that they were also more likely to indicate that they believed “å”, “ä” and “ö” were distinct letters from “a” and “o”. This new set of data will include speakers at different proficiency levels so that the effect of proficiency may also be explored.
Towards a targetlike L2 Swedish intonation: Pitch accents and boundary tones of L1 Spanish speakers
Johanna Einarsson, Stockholm University
A number of studies have stressed the important role of prosody for a well-functioning communication in the L2 (e.g. Anderson-Hsieh et al., 1992; Hahn, 2004). L2 prosody is also the subject of my ongoing PhD project, in which I look at the intonational system of L1 (Peninsular) Spanish speakers of Swedish. I examine the speakers’ production of pitch accents and boundary tones in three sentential contexts: declaratives, polar questions, and pronominal questions. In-depth profiles on the speakers’ L2 intonation are made in a qualitative study. The materials consist of read and (semi)spontaneous speech produced by nine experienced L2 speakers. Read elicited sentences produced by three of them (FP1–FP3) are focus materials. Their L2 Swedish phonological performance is at various levels: FP1 (non-nativelike), FP2 (partially nativelike), and FP3 (near nativelike).
Results show that the L2 Swedish intonation differs considerably between the subjects. For example, FP1’s speech is characterized by a tangible influence from the L1. FP3, on the other hand, has acquired the distinction between the two prominence levels in Swedish as well as the tone accent distinction, yielding strikingly targetlike forms.
Acceptability in Finnish and Danish
Lisa Tulaja, Leena Maria Heikkola & Antti Saloranta, Kiel University, Åbo Akademi University & University of Turku
Immigration has increased sharply in Europe over the past decade, also in the Nordiccountries (UN, 2017). At the heart of a successful integration of an immigrant arelanguage skills. Research has shown that pronunciation in particular can affect how asecond language (L2) speaker is perceived (Toivola, 2011). The article presents aninternational study on the acceptability, namely the communicative success of speech(Tulaja, 2020), of L2 speakers of Finnish and Danish. The aim of the study is toinvestigate the acceptability dimension of pronunciation in two Nordic languages,namely Finnish and Danish. It is of interest to examine how acceptability can be used asa dimension in the assessment of L2 pronunciation. Knowledge of what native speakersconsider to be acceptable second language speech can be utilized in the design andimplementation of new avenues for research into the social aspects of pronunciation,and new guidelines as to how the social aspects of pronunciation should be included insecond language teaching.