[ Second language psycholinguistics ]




Category formation and lexical encoding of new contrasts

Isabelle Darcy
Rex Sprouse (SLS, Germanic Studies)
Laurent Dekydtspotter (SLS, French)
Christiane Kaden (Germanic Studies, Linguistics)
John H.G. Scott (Germanic Studies, SLS)
Danielle Daidone (SLS) Franziska Krüger (Germanic Studies, SLS) Michael McGuire (Linguistics)
Justin Glover (Germanic Studies, SLS)

In this big project, we investigate the question of how new phonetic/phonological categories are learned in a second language. We focus on the developmental paths, and on the whole acquisition process: forming a new robust category AND encoding this into lexical representations. We look at the same set of vowels in two different languages, French and German, using different methods like Lexical Decision and Categorization.

Link to abstract for ASA 2009 in Portland

Link to SLRF_2009 presentation

Link to Poster for BUCLD 34

Link to our paper published in 2012 in Second Language Research

Link to slides of presentation at University of Utah

The role of attention control and inhibition in acquisition of new contrasts

Isabelle Darcy
Joan-Carles Mora (Universitat de Barcelona)

In this new project, we investigate the question of how new phonetic/phonological categories are learned in a second language, and what is the role played by attention control and/or inhibition. We focus particularly on individual differences.

Individual Differences in the acquisition of Second Language Phonology

Isabelle Darcy
Hanyong Park (University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, Hanyong's website)
Chung-Lin Yang (Cognitive Science, SLS)

A large body of literature focuses on individual differences in general second language acquisition (Dörnyei 2005). But very little progress has been made in identifying the sources of those differences as they apply to phonological acquisition. Phonological acquisition - through perceptual and motor learning - is in large part reflected in the degree of foreign accent in a second language. Most approaches to individual differences and SLA so far have been concerned with second language learning in an academic language learning setting, whereas our approach is committed to naturalistic language acquisition in social context, while considering psycholinguistic and general neurocognitive functions as well.
In order to make progress in this area, a large-scale study of the individual variability in the L2 acquisition of English phonology is proposed. In order to examine individual differences and long-term development in the acquisition of the L2 phonological system, we project to link neurocognitive abilities, vocabulary size, and phonological acquisition.
This project proposes to investigate:

  1. Through perception and production testing: how phonological acquisition proceeds at different levels of the sound system - not only in terms of sounds, but also lexical contrast and higher levels of phonological encoding.
  2. Through a battery of neuropsychological tests: whether large individual differences in L2 development might be due to differences in specific neurocognitive abilities (like phonological short-term memory size / working memory, processing speed, attention control) or motivational factors.

Link to General Project Description

The role of pronunciation instruction for acquisition, comprehensibility and foreign accent

Isabelle Darcy
Joshua Gordon (SLS)
Ryan Lidster (SLS)
Doreen Ewert (University of San Francisco)

In this larger project, I am interested in understanding the role played by pronunciation instruction, and what factors can enhance its effectivity. With Josh Gordon, we work on understanding whether explicit pronunciation instruction yields larger comprehensibility benefits for learners than non-explicit pronunciation instruction.
With Doreen Ewert and Ryan Lidster, we have worked on curriculum design and on ways to integrate pronunciation instruction into actual language teaching. We offer recommendations for what to teach when, and we encourage a more integral teaching of pronunciation in the lower proficiency levels.

Link to Darcy, I., Ewert, D. and Lidster, R. (2012) Bringing pronunciation instruction back into the classroom: An ESL Teachers' pronunciation "toolbox". Published in the Proceedings of the 3rd PSLLT Conference.

Learnability factors in category acquisition

Isabelle Darcy
Miguel Marquez Martinez
Lorenzo Garcia Amaya
Teresa Lopez Soto and Luis Martinez (Universidad de Sevilla, Spain)

When a sound contrast is not present in a language, it has been shown to be very difficult to learn this contrast during second language acquisition, both in perception and in production.

According to dominant models of second language speech perception like the Speech Learning Model (Flege 1995) or the Perceptual Assimilation Model (Best 1995), if a learner does not reliably distinguish (discriminate) the non-native contrast because of the configuration of his first language, acquisition of a novel category is predicted to be difficult. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that factors other than just "presence or absence of a feature in the first language system" might differently affect non-native sound discrimination, and hence, success in acquisition of a novel category and its encoding in faithful lexical representations. Their respective role in predicting a learning outcome, however, has not yet been systematically investigated.

In this project, we look at the acquisition by native speakers of Spanish of a similar contrast in two target languages: French and English. We want to investigate several factors in a series of experiments, and their respective contribution to learning outcomes as compared to the L1 sound system.

Check back soon for updates!!!

Completed Projects

Vowel perception and production in Turkish children acquiring L2 German

Isabelle Darcy and Franziska Krueger (Indiana University)

First language (L1) phonological categories strongly influence late learners' perception and production of second language (L2) categories. For learners who start learning an L2 early in life ("early learners"), this L1 influence appears to be substantially reduced or at least more variable. In this paper, we examine the age at which L1 vowel categories influence the acquisition of L2 vowels. We tested a child population with a very narrow range of age of first exposure, controlling for the use of L1 vs. L2, and various naturally produced contrasts that are not allophonic in the L1 of the children. An oddity discrimination task provided evidence that children who are native speakers of Turkish and began learning German as an L2 in kindergarten categorized difficult German contrasts differently from agematched native speakers. Their vowel productions of these same contrasts (un-cued object naming) were mostly target-like.

Darcy, I., and Krüger, F. (2012). Vowel perception and production in Turkish children acquiring L2 German. Journal of Phonetics, 40, 568-581


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Lab News

We'll be at Sound to Word 2016, April 1-2, 2016, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA

Click here to see the new SLS Colloquium Schedule Spring 2016

Click here to see the course materials for the seminar Bilingual Mental Lexicon at Universitat de Barcelona (password protected).