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The Effects of Age of Onset on VOT in L2 Aquisition and L1 Attrition: A Study of the Speech Production and Perception of Advanced Spanish-Swedish Bilinguals
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
2013 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis explores the role of age in second language (L2) acquisition and first language (L1) attrition. The focus is on Voice Onset Time (VOT) in the production and categorical perception of word-initial L1 and L2 stops in highly advanced L1 Spanish learners of L2 Swedish. Using as the point of departure a maturational constraints perspective and the Critical Period Hypothesis (CPH), Study I examines the impact of age of onset (AO) of L2 acquisition on the production of L2 Swedish voiceless stops. The results show that there are AO effects even in the speech of highly advanced L2 learners and that the incidence of nativelike L2 learners is considerably lower than earlier assumed. However, conclusions like these are only possible when speaking rate is accounted for, thereby highlighting the importance of speaking rate effects on VOT as a measure of nativelikeness. Like Study I, Study II reveals age effects on the same L2 learners’ categorical perceptions of L2 Swedish stops. Moreover, after combining the results with the data from Study I, the incidence of nativelike behavior drops remarkably with no late L2 learner performing within the range of native-speaker production and perception. The results suggest that L2 acquisition of phonetic/phonological aspects is especially sensitive to AO effects. It is concluded that theories on maturational constraints, including the CPH, cannot be refuted on the basis of the present data. Study III concerns the same participants’ production and perception of L1 Spanish stops. Age of reduced contact (ARC) is identified as an important predictor for L1 attrition and retention of voiceless stop production, although not of stop perception. This discrepancy is related to different activation thresholds as proposed by the Activation Threshold Hypothesis (ATH). It is further suggested that early bilinguals are more dependent on high-frequency L1 use than late bilinguals when compensating for age effects, but only in production.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Centre for Research on Bilingualism, Stockholm University , 2013. , 55 p.
Series
Dissertations in Bilingualism, ISSN 1400-5921 ; 23
Keyword [en]
second language acquisition, first language attrition, maturational constraints, critical period, voice onset time, stop production, categorical perception, activation threshold hypothesis, L1 use, highly proficient L2 learners, L1 Spanish, L2 Swedish
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-94887ISBN: 978-91-7447-793-1 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-94887DiVA: diva2:657142
Public defence
2013-11-22, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 10:00 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
Age of onset and ultimate attainment in second language acquisition, The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, grant no. 1999-0383:01First language attrition in advanced second language speakers, Swedish Research Council, grant no. 421-2004-1975
Note

At the time of doctoral defence the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Accepted. Paper 2: In press. Paper 3: Manuscript.

Available from: 2013-10-31 Created: 2013-10-16 Last updated: 2017-11-08Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Effects of age and speaking rate on voice onset time: The production of voiceless stops by near-native L2 speakers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Effects of age and speaking rate on voice onset time: The production of voiceless stops by near-native L2 speakers
2015 (English)In: Studies in Second Language Acquisition, ISSN 0272-2631, E-ISSN 1470-1545, Vol. 37, no 1, 71-100 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

As part of a research project on the investigation of second language (L2) ultimate attainment in 41 Spanish early and late near-native speakers of L2 Swedish, the present study reports on voice onset time (VOT) analyses of the production of Swedish word-initial voiceless stops, /p t k/. VOT is analyzed in milliseconds as well as in percentages of word duration, thereby accounting for speaking rate effects. The results revealed an overall age effect on VOT production; however, this age effect became salient and sta­tistically significant for all three stops only when speaking rate was taken into consider­ation. Similarly, when speaking rate was accounted for, only a small minority of the late learners exhibited actual nativelike L2 behavior, and most (but far from all) early learn­ers performed within native-speaker range. The results are taken as an indication for relative VOT, as opposed to absolute VOT, constituting a reliable measure of nativelike L2 stop production, which has important implications for future research on age effects and maturational constraints in L2 acquisition.

National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-95251 (URN)10.1017/S0272263114000151 (DOI)000349973100003 ()
Projects
Age of onset and ultimate attainment in second language acquisition (The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, grant no. 1999-0383:01)
Available from: 2013-10-24 Created: 2013-10-24 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
2. Effects of Age of Learning on Voice Onset Time: Categorical Perception of Swedish Stops by Near-native L2 Speakers
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Effects of Age of Learning on Voice Onset Time: Categorical Perception of Swedish Stops by Near-native L2 Speakers
2014 (English)In: Language and Speech, ISSN 0023-8309, E-ISSN 1756-6053, Vol. 57, no 4, 425-450 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This study examined the effects of age of onset (AO) of L2 acquisition on the cate­gorical perception of the voicing contrast in Swedish word-initial stops varying in Voice Onset Time (VOT). Three voicing continua created on the basis of natural Swedish word pairs with /p–b/, /t–d/, /k–ɡ/ in initial position were presented to 41 Spanish early (AO < 12) and late (AO > 12) near-native speakers of L2 Swedish. 15 native speakers of Swedish served as controls. Categorizations were influenced by AO and listener status as L1/L2 speaker, in that the late learners deviated the most from native-speaker perception. In addition, only a small minority of the late learners perceived the voicing contrast in a way comparable to native-speaker cate­gorization, while most early L2 learners demonstrated nativelike categorization patterns. However, when the results were combined with the L2 learners’ produc­tion of Swedish voiceless stops (Stölten, 2005; Stölten, Abrahamsson & Hylten­stam, in press), nativelike production and perception was never found among the late learners, while a majority of the early learners still exhibited nativelike pro­duction and perception. It is concluded that, despite their being perceived as mother-tongue speakers of Swedish by native listeners, the late learners do not, after detailed phonetic scrutiny, exhibit a fully nativelike command of Swedish VOT. Consequently, being near-native rather than nativelike speakers of their second language, these individuals do not constitute the evidence necessary to reject the hypothesis of one or several critical (or sensitive) periods for language acquisition.

Keyword
Age of onset (AO), voice onset time (VOT), categorical perception, near-nativeness, L2 acquisition
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-95259 (URN)10.1177/0023830913508760 (DOI)000345304600001 ()
Projects
Age of onset and ultimate attainment in second language acquisition (The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, grant no. 1999-0383:01)
Available from: 2013-10-24 Created: 2013-10-24 Last updated: 2017-12-06Bibliographically approved
3. The L1 production and perception of VOT in Spanish-Swedish bilinguals: The role of age and L1 use
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The L1 production and perception of VOT in Spanish-Swedish bilinguals: The role of age and L1 use
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This study investigates the effects of age of reduced contact (ARC) and L1 use on L1 stop production and perception in Spanish-Swedish bilinguals. Results revealed that ARC had an impact on voice onset time (VOT) in the production of Spanish /p t k/, but not on the categorical perception of Spanish /p–b/, /t–d/, /k–ɡ/. While mat­uration may explain the ARC effects, it alone does not provide a satisfying expla­nation for the discrepancy between production and perception. It is proposed that perception may be less prone to change than production due to differences in acti­vation levels, as predicted by the Activation Threshold Hypothesis (ATH). Furthermore, results showed that L1 use influenced stop production, but not per­ception, especially in early bilinguals. It is concluded that early bilinguals depend on advantageous factors such as high-frequency L1 use in order to compensate for ARC effects, but only in production.

National Category
Humanities
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-95261 (URN)
Projects
First language attrition in advanced second language speakers (Swedish Research Council, grant no. 421-2004-1975)
Available from: 2013-10-24 Created: 2013-10-24 Last updated: 2013-10-24Bibliographically approved

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