Acquisition of Spanish pronunciation

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Current Approaches to Spanish and Portuguese L2 Phonology
University of Minnesota
February 22-23, 2008
On the acquisition of synalepha and resyllabification
in Spanish by English-speaking advanced learners
D. Eric Holt and Carlos Gelormini-Lezama
University of South Carolina
Comments welcome: [email protected]
Introduction
Within the field of second language acquisition, studies of various grammatical aspects of Spanish as
a foreign language are abundant, and while studies on pronunciation are not uncommon, they have
mainly focused on segmental aspects (with some treating intonation or other suprasegmental
aspects).
This study targets the acquisition of two seldom-studied features of Spanish pronunciation in
connected speech by English-speaking advanced learners: synalepha and resyllabification.
Synalepha, the lack of hiatus between adjacent vowels, as in (1):
(1) Synalepha:
El hombre retó a su hijita severamente.
Enrique aguantó su enojo con decoro.

Occurs most easily and frequently at the contact between unstressed vowels, specifically
between weak vowels (i,u), or between a weak and a strong vowel (e,a,o), yielding diphthong
formation across a word boundary.
o the data collected also include many cases of the contact of strong vowels (que el, a
esa, etc.), which can be linked together but without diphthong formation, and in case
of identical vowels, merger/reduction.
CV syllable structure is unmarked in Spanish, with “resyllabification” or “linking/enlace”) (2)
typical between consonant-final words and vowel-initial words as a means to yield more syllables of
the preferred CV type.
(2) Resyllabification:
A esa tabla le faltan los elementos que no son naturales.
1
Since neither of these phenomena is typical of English, we expect them to be areas of difficulty for
English learners of Spanish.
Aims of study and Background
To present a report and discussion of results of an ongoing study of advanced learners’ improvement
in pronunciation during the course of three different treatments:



study abroad
explicit instruction
other advanced language class without explicit instruction or practice in pronunciation
Research design
62 subjects divided into four groups. All groups were at or above the 300-level.




Group A consisted of 19 subjects who took an introductory course on phonetics and
pronunciation.
Group B consisted of 15 subjects who participated in a four-week summer study abroad
program to Liberia, Costa Rica in 2007.
Group C consisted of 22 subjects taking other 300-level classes with no explicit instruction in
the features studied here, subdivided between courses in business Spanish (N=10) and an
introduction to literary analysis (N=12).
Group D, the native control group (N=6), speakers from
o Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea, Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico
Task
Stimuli of 100 sentences that contained target combinations (two versions). (Appendix)
Learners were recorded at the beginning and end of treatment, providing the baseline measure and
final achievement.1

Each subject read one version of list at Time 1, the other at Time 2, to attempt to eliminate
the confound of reading order.
(Two native speakers gave only T1 in Costa Rica; the others were also students in either Group B or
C.)
Research questions:




How do different modes and types of exposure to Spanish affect accurate pronunciation?
What background factors correlate with higher achievement in accuracy of pronunciation?
What factors contribute to increases in accurate pronunciation?
Does explicit instruction lead to improvement of pronunciation?
2



What is the relationship between “fluency” and accurate pronunciation, especially of
connected speech?
How will native speakers produce these kinds of connected speech?
What factors (phonological, morphological, syntactic, lexical, other) contribute to or inhibit
the realizations of synalepha and resyllabification?
Hypotheses
That the relative degree of improvement will depend on the treatment received.
Hypothesis 1:
Group A (pronunciation course) will show the highest improvement due to having received explicit
instruction and focused opportunity for practice in the target features.
Hypothesis 2:
Group B (study abroad) will outperform Group C (other advanced language courses) due to its
greater exposure to native input and increased opportunity and need for oral expression.
Data/results
For the purposes of this presentation, only the first 50 sentences were analyzed, and a selection of
subjects was made from groups A (N=6), B (N=5), C (N=6), totaling 17 for the current report, and
all of control D (N=6).
The authors listened to recordings and made judgments about whether synalepha and final-consonant
linking obtained.
There were 71 possible instances of resyllabification, and 70 cases of vowel contact across word
boundaries.
o (Lord 2005 analyzes 6 tokens of this general type, along with 19 cases of diphthongs
within words.)
While more careful (and, presumably, slower) styles of speech are thought to favor more accurate
production, for connected speech phenomena, we might expect that increased speed would lead to
better production of synalepha and final-consonant linking.

One potential predictor of improvement in pronunciation is the raw decrease in time to
complete the task (Table 1).
3
(Time)
Range T1
Range T2
Change:
mean
median
Low
High
Sample
Range T1
Range T2
Change:
mean
median
Low
High
Table 1:
Reading duration T1 and T2, raw change by group
Group A
Group B
Group C1
Group C2
N=19
N=15
N=12
N=10
5:53-9:53
6:30-11:13
6:25-10:27
6:59-8:26
5:32-9:47
6:06-10:47
6:08-8:56
6:19-8:49
-17.35 sec.
-9
+28
-1:39
-28.53
-32
+19
-1:23 (2)
-17.66
-23
+25 (2)
-1:31
-14.2
-15
+29
-1:13
N=6
5:33-9:52
5:36-9:47
N=5
6:30-8:55
6:06-8:36
N=2
7:39-8:03
7:31-7:33
N=4
6:59-8:06
7:19-7:39
-19.33 sec.
-7
+21
-1:39
-38.8
-45
+19
-1:23
-19
-19
-6
-32
+14
+13.5
+29
-32
Group D
N=6
5:03-9:30
(mean=6:31)
Study-abroad group made largest gains in speed; however, these subjects did not make greatest gains
in phenomena of connected speech (Table 2, Figure 1):
A
Table 2
Linking (%)
Synalepha (%)
Achievement
gain
Achievement
gain
61.74
20.19
53.81
15.95
B
49.86
13.52
36.29
14.29
C
58.45
56.34
-2.82
6.69
47.86
43.57
7.86
17.14
D
79.81
74.52
4
Figure 1
90
80
70
60
Linking Time 2
50
Linking % gain
40
Synalepha Time 2
30
Synalepha % gain
Synalepha % gain
20
10
0
-10
A
B
C
D
Hypothesis 1:
Group A (pronunciation course) will show the highest improvement due to having received explicit
instruction and focused opportunity for practice in the target features.
(Preliminarily) confirmed:


Linking:
o highest achievement at T2, highest % gain
Synalepha:
o highest achievement at T2, highest % gain
 (except if C2 independent)
Hypothesis 2:
Group B (study abroad) will outperform Group C (other advanced language courses) due to its
greater exposure to native input and increased opportunity and need for oral expression.
Mixed results:


Second highest % gain, but not achievement
All results preliminary:
o in need of confirmation of statistical significance
o need to finish analysis of all subjects for each group
 need to analyze background (previous study abroad or pronunciation instruction),
motivation, other factors
5
Analysis/Issues








Reading skills/speed not uniform, fully controlled for
Place of pauses for breaths (which then fail to trigger connected speech phenomena)
o Generally more natural for NS than for NNS
Role of syntactic boundaries in inhibiting connected speech phenomena (even by native
speakers)
o Between syntactic constituents, subject/predicate, etc.
Mis-parsing (e.g., el este vs. él esté)
Ambisyllabic consonants (mainly l, but also n, s)
o Apparent increase in final-consonant linking, but not fully undoing CVC syllable
Degree of synalepha – sometimes merely no pause, rather than full formation of diphthong,
though still no hiatus
Both native speakers and learners sometimes linked strong vowels across word boundaries, even
when one stressed
Presence of glottal stops

Reading difficulty due to processing style – logographic or phonographic. (Errors of type una
boca for una beca are rare by Spanish speakers, since they read phonographically, while English
speakers read more by chunk/word/visually.)

Even if Costa Rica subjects improved on "time" this did NOT correlate with an improvement on
synalephas and linking. We tend to think that the quicker the reading, the more synalephas there
ought to be. However, the Costa Rica group can show that speakers can gain in "time", "fluency"
but not necessarily in the features that are associated with fluency in a native speaker.
 Bolsters the argument that a special course on pronunciation is required because fluency by
itself does not bring as many synalephas as expected. (Supports the findings of Díaz-Campos
that formal instruction is necessary, even for those who study abroad.)
Directions for future study/limitations of current study





Continue transcribing and analyzing data from additional subjects from each group.
Make analysis more fine-grained by looking at tokens according to context of stress, word class,
type of consonants or vowels in contact
Run statistics for significance
Expand range of phenomena addressed (segmental, rhythmic, intonation, etc.)
Improve task instrument by eliminating unfamiliar words to reduce the effect of reading
difficulty and to make the sentences more natural.
o We had anticipated that our subjects’ 300+-level would mean that they showed
significant control of vocabulary and grammatical structures, which would minimize the
confounds of lexical and fluency challenges, and facilitate the study of variables that
interact in the acquisition of phonological features alone. In the end, the stimuli included
a number of words that did distract from fluency, and concomitantly, connected speech
phenomena
6



Vary type of discourse; add tasks of extended passage and of natural/spontaneous speech (free
response to open-ended questions or giving background information)
Investigate/incorporate role of attitude (Pronunciation Attitude Inventory (PAI) (Elliott 1995);
only collected post-hoc for some of the subjects from Group B)
Eventually divide Group A into two groups and vary the content/treatments received to further
address particular methods of effective instruction of phonetics/pronunciation. (Would ideally
require multiple sections of phonetics course in a given semester, which is beyond the current
offer/demand.)
Conclusions
In this paper we hope to have contributed to the field of acquisition of Spanish phonology by English
speakers by beginning to provide some insight into the subtle factors and practices that influence the
degree of mastery of elements of nonnative phonology. There is much more to be analyzed, but the
present research preliminarily supports the claim that students can indeed improve their
pronunciation, and more effectively, by taking a course in applied phonetics/pronunciation; likewise
that the additional exposure and practice garnered during study abroad programs, even intensive or
short ones, will lead to increased mastery of the aspects of connected speech treated here.
Much more remains to be done to further bolster these claims, in progress.
Acknowledgments
Thanks to Cintia Widmann for help in the creation of the initial design and stimuli; Paul Spence for
assistance in coding the hand-written data into the Excel spreadsheet; staff and student assistants in
the USC Foreign Language Learning Center, particularly Gloria Washington and Bill Fairchild, and
also Sherry Warren, for help in administering the campus-based recordings; to Jorge Camacho and
Teel Evans, instructors of two of the classes where subjects were recruited; and of course, to all the
participants themselves. Thanks to participants at the conference for feedback and discussion, and to
Nina Moreno for the same.
7
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Pronunciation pedagogy and theory: New views, new directions, 94–108. Alexandria, VA: TESOL, Inc.
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8
List of sentences (problematic words bolded)
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
7.
8.
9.
10.
11.
12.
13.
14.
15.
16.
17.
18.
19.
20.
21.
22.
23.
24.
25.
26.
27.
28.
29.
30.
31.
32.
33.
34.
35.
36.
37.
38.
39.
40.
41.
42.
43.
44.
45.
A esa tabla le faltan los elementos que no son naturales.
A veces son buenas las ofertas de este negocio.
Al libro le falta el índice de autores.
Algunos turistas viven en Uruguay y otros en Brasil.
Creo que los íconos que tienes en el escritorio son muy grandes.
Después de usar mi ungüento se me curó la herida.
El granjero le pagó un centavo por uva recolectada.
El colectivo va por Arenales y después cruza la vía.
El departamento cuesta $500 con agua y gas incluidos.
El dicho dice que el amor es ciego.
El diplomático ha vivido en India y también en Pakistán.
El director perdonó mi omisión en el documento.
El granjero le compró las ocas a un gitano que pasaba.
El hombre retó a su hijita severamente.
El jardinero riega el árbol todos los días.
El libro dice que en occidente ese gesto puede interpretarse como un insulto.
El libro dice que los ácaros son insectos.
El mecánico le quiere cambiar los ejes al auto.
El médico hizo su operación pero fracasó.
El patriota manifestó su honor ante el pueblo.
El perro sintió tu olor y te reconoció.
El profesor corrigió mi oración con un grito.
El pueblo rindió su homenaje al héroe.
El secretario aprueba mi oposición al presidente.
El tío de Ana está en Estonia haciendo un doctorado.
Enrique aguantó su enojo con decoro.
Esas cosas le pasan por idiota a él.
Este es el número para que llame el usuario que tenga dudas.
Este libro es el único que tengo.
Esto está hecho por alguien que sabe lo que hace.
Estoy orgulloso de mi uniforme de policía.
Gracias a mi educación conseguí una beca.
Homero despertó su imaginación como nadie.
Inés pintó mi habitación a la mañana.
Juan destruyó mi empresa con mala fe.
Juan llamó a su amigo en Londres.
La carta dice que tus amigos llegan el martes.
La maestra dice que el este es un punto cardinal.
La mamá arregló su armario en el comedor.
La mujer cortó su higuera en el jardín.
La mujer criticó mi olor a perfume.
La tía mostró su intención de no pagar.
Las compañías de servicios públicos están controladas por entes reguladores del estado.
Le gustan las canciones escritas por ídolos populares y por poetas sin talento.
Le pidió por enésima vez que se callara la boca.
9
46.
47.
48.
49.
50.
51.
52.
53.
54.
55.
56.
57.
58.
59.
60.
61.
62.
63.
64.
65.
66.
67.
68.
69.
70.
71.
72.
73.
74.
75.
76.
77.
78.
79.
80.
81.
82.
83.
84.
85.
86.
87.
88.
89.
90.
91.
92.
93.
Los alumnos que se portan bien se llevan el oso de peluche a casa un día cada uno.
Los científicos cambiaron titanio por uranio.
Los cuentos están en mi universo infantil.
Los padres sintieron el olor a quemado desde el jardín.
Los panfletos fueron hechos por ocupantes clandestinos.
Mañana viene el electricista que contratamos.
Marcaron el límite entre propiedades con álamos y pinos.
Marcela mató a mi amor en la cárcel.
María cree que en otro país no pasaría esto.
Mariela lleva su empresa con mucho éxito.
Marta perdió su esmeralda en la calle.
Mi hermano se especializó en úlceras estomacales e intestinales.
Mi madre rompió su escalera en la casa.
Mi papá aplaudió mi ambición de progresar.
Mi papá puso tu abrigo en el coche.
Mi prima se come las uñas todo el tiempo.
Mi tío ordenó su habitación con mi ayuda.
Mi vecino volvió con ideas extrañas de esa reunión.
Mis padres pusieron mi unicornio en el cuarto.
Nacha aceptó mi acuerdo con buena voluntad.
No perdí mi oportunidad de criticar la película.
No sé nada de hijitas jóvenes.
No sé nada de humillaciones.
No sé nada de iguanas americanas.
No sé nada de importaciones coreanas.
No sé nada de uvitas chilenas.
No se sabe si la mató por odio o por amor.
No sé si Humberto tiene razón.
No sé si la hiciste bien.
No sé si la humanidad es buena.
No sé si la hundió.
No sé si la iguana es de él.
No sé si le humilló.
No sé si le importa mucho.
No sé si lo hicimos bien.
No sé si lo ubicó correctamente.
No sé si me humilló tanto.
No sé si me importa tanto.
No sé si me ubico bien.
No sé si se hundió.
No sé si se imagina la realidad.
No sé si se imprimió.
Pablo pintó su estudio de blanco.
Paula puso mi elástico en el patio.
Pedimos más vacunas porque queremos un país sin ébola y sin malaria.
Pedro le vendió su antena a un vecino.
Perdió todos los utensilios de cocina en la mudanza.
Por culpa de mi ego perdí muchos amigos.
10
94.
95.
96.
97.
98.
99.
100.
Por culpa de mi ulceración no puedo comer caramelos.
Publicaron un artículo sobre el ilustre poeta en el diario.
Ramón regaló su elefante de juguete.
Un amigo negó su interés en matemática.
Vivo en mi edificio desde hace diez meses.
Ya te llegaron los itinerarios de viaje.
Yo encontré a mi amigo en la playa.
11
Vowel combinations
á+é
á+e
está hecho
está en
a+é
A esa
a él
falta el
la herida
riega el
Ana está
higuera en
idiota a
Estonia haciendo
mamá arregló
a+e
a+a
á+a
é+é
é+e
e+é
e+e
ó+é
ó+e
o+é
o+e
o+a
ó+a
í+ó
í+o
i+ó
i+o
(inverse)
de Ana
que hace
de autores
homenaje al
Enrique aguantó
peluche a
de este
occidente ese
este es
que el
que en
ante el
Este es
llame el
que el
este es
desde el
libro es
vivido en
Esto está
amigo en
armario en
diplomático ha
retó a
llamó a
médico hizo
mi omisión
mi oración
mi olor
universo infantil
(+1)
12
mi oposición
í+á
í+a
i+á
i+a
í+é
í+e
i+é
i+e
ú+á
ú+a
u+á
u+a
ú+é
ú+e
u+é
u+e
ú+ó
ú+o
u+ó
u+o
ú+í
ú+i
u+í
u+i
j+V
w+V
wi
S+S
S+s
agua y
mi habitación
India y (+2)
mi educación
mi empresa
puede interpretarse
(+7)
cada uno
su amigo
su armario
a un
casa un (+2)
su enojo
de usar (+6)
pagó un
haciendo un
como un
(+1)
su operación
su honor
tu olor
su homenaje
í+ú
i+ú
í+u
i+u
su hijita
su higuera
su intención
su imaginación
7
7
4
1
4
V+j
V+w
ju
s+s
s+S
13
conseguí una
mi universo
mi ungüento
mi uniforme
(+1)
4
7
4
24 (2 = a-a; 8 = e-e)
2
sentence
number
Consonant linking
-s
-r
-n
-l
all
N=22
N=14
N=22
N=13
N=71
1
los elementos
7
por uva
4
viven en
3
el índice
2
las ofertas
8
por Arenales
4
en Uruguay
5
el escritorio
4
otros en
10
amor es
5
en el
10
el amor
5
los íconos
20
honor ante
9
con agua
14
el hombre
5
tienes en
21
olor y
11
en India
15
el árbol
8
Arenales y
27
por idiota
11
también en
18
al auto
9
gas incluidos
30
por alguien
12
omisión en
23
al héroe
13
las ocas
41
olor a
12
en el
28
el usuario
13
ocas a
43
por entes
16
en occidente
29
el único
17
los ácaros
44
por ídolos
16
un insulto
38
el este
18
los ejes
45
por enésima
17
son insectos
43
del estado
18
ejes al
47
por uranio
22
con un
46
el oso
28
es el
49
olor a
24
oposición al
49
el olor
29
es el
50
por ocupantes
25
en Estonia
32
Gracias a
34
habitación a
37
tus amigos
37
llegan el
38
es un
39
en el
43
públicos están
40
en el
44
canciones escritas
46
llevan el
44
populares y
48
están en
46
Los alumnos
49
sintieron el
48
cuentos están
50
fueron hechos
los (4 +, 2 – stress)
5
por (3 +, 6 –)
9
verbs (1 +, 6 –)
7
el (6 +, 4 –)
10
las (1 +, 1 –)
2
noun (5 –)
5
prep. (9 +, 1 –)
10
al (2 +)
2
verbs (4 –)
4
con (1 +)
2
del (1 –)
1
14
es
3
en (1 +)
8
nouns (9 –)
9
nouns (3 –)
3
poss. adj. (1 –)
1
adv. (1 –)
1
adj. (1 –)
1
indef. art. (1 –)
1
nouns (17 –)
17
verbs (1 +, 10 –)
11
preps. (12 +, 7 –)
19
articles (13 +, 8 –)
21
+ stress
26
– stress
42 (45)
The Pronunciation Attitude Inventory (PAI) (Elliott, 1995)
Please answer all items using the following response categories:
5 = Always or almost always true of me
4 = Usually true of me
3 = Somewhat true of me
2 = Usually not true of me
1 = Never or almost never true of me
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
6.
I'd like to sound as native as possible when speaking Spanish.
Acquiring proper pronunciation in Spanish is important to me.
I will never be able to speak Spanish with a good accent.
I believe I can improve my pronunciation skills in Spanish.
I believe more emphasis should be given to proper pronunciation in class.
One of my personal goals is to acquire proper pronunciation skills and preferably be able to pass
as a near-native speaker of the language.
7. I try to imitate Spanish speakers as much as possible.
8. Communicating is much more important than sounding like a native speaker of Spanish.
9. Good pronunciation skills in Spanish are not as important as learning vocabulary and grammar.
10. I want to improve my accent when speaking Spanish.
11. I'm concerned with my progress in my pronunciation of Spanish.
12. Sounding like a native speaker is very important to me.
15
Invitation to participate
We request your participation in an ongoing study that aims to deepen our understanding of how
speakers of English learn foreign languages.
To this end, we ask that you fill out the Participant Questionnaire below, and record yourself reading
the list of sentences provided. At the end of the semester, we will arrange for you to record yourself
once again. Total time anticipated to carry this out is 10-15 minutes per session.
This activity is voluntary, and anonymous, with identifying information limited to that necessary to
link the background answers of the Questionnaire to the recordings. In any future publication of this
research, your identity will not be associated in any way with the data.
Your instructors have agreed to provide extra credit for your participation. If you are unwilling to
participate in these recordings, your instructor will arrange for you to do some other assignment to
receive the extra credit points.
Participant Questionnaire
1. Name:
2. Age:
3. Native language:
4. Parents or other close relatives that speak Spanish:
5. Other languages spoken (if any):
6. Years studying Spanish:
7. Age when began studying Spanish:
8. Spanish courses taken at USC:
9. Major/minor:
10. Linguistics, Phonetics or Pronunciation courses taken (if any, including SPAN 317, SPAN 517,
LING 300, LING 301, etc.): [need to add SPAN 207]
11. Experience studying abroad in a Spanish-speaking country:
12. How important is it personally for you to have a good or near-native level of pronunciation?
13. Future plans or goals for use of Spanish.
Computer Station Number:
Lista: A or B
1
Data were collected from Groups A and C in the USC language lab using Micro Innovations
headset microphones and the Audacity software package and saved as either WAV or mp3 files. In
Costa Rica, most data were collected by laptop using Micro Innovations headset microphones and
the Audacity software package and saved as WAV files. Others were recorded using an Olympus
VN-3100PC digital voice recorder with a Sony ECM-MS907 powered hand microphone, and then
transferred to the laptop.
16
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