The perception and comprehension of L2 English sentence types
cross-linguistic influence and task effects
Palavras-chave:crosslinguistic influence, phonetics, prosody, L2 prosody, L2 acquisition, intonation
L2 prosody is particularly difficult to acquire, because it requires an understanding of intonation, syntax, and pragmatics. For example, to acquire English sentence types, speakers must learn that statements (Ss) and absolute yes/no questions (AQs) are syntactically and prosodically marked, whereas the difference between Ss and declarative questions (DQs) is purely prosodic. Moreover, DQs can only occur in restricted contexts, such as to express surprise. In this paper, we examine the L2 perception and comprehension of English sentence types, by speakers of three typologically distinct L1s (Spanish, Mandarin, Inuktitut), with the goal of investigating the role of crosslinguistic influence (CLI). Spanish uses only intonation (a higher initial pitch accent and final rising boundary tone) to distinguish Ss from AQs and DQs, whereas in Mandarin, questions (AQs and DQs) can be syntactically identical to statements or marked by the lexical particle –ma. Mandarin also has a prosodic distinction between broad focus and echo questions (which are similar to English AQs and DQs). In contrast, Inuktitut has a very restricted use of pitch, and primarily marks questions morphologically. Learners of each L1 and English controls performed three tasks that varied in the amount of contextual and linguistic information available. Our results revealed evidence of both positive and negative CLI. Inuktitut and Mandarin speakers demonstrated some tendencies to focus more on syntax than intonation. Moreover, the Mandarin speakers were the most successful at acquiring the pragmatic distinction between AQs and DQs, which we argue is due to a similar contrast in Mandarin.
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