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Effects of Age of Learning on Voice Onset Time: Categorical Perception of Swedish Stops by Near-native L2 Speakers
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Swedish Language and Multilingualism, Centre for Research on Bilingualism.
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.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2014. Vol. 57, no 4, 425-450 p.
Keyword [en]
Age of onset (AO), voice onset time (VOT), categorical perception, near-nativeness, L2 acquisition
National Category
Languages and Literature
Research subject
Bilingualism
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-95259DOI: 10.1177/0023830913508760ISI: 000345304600001OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-95259DiVA: diva2:659180
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
In thesis
1. 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
Open this publication in new window or tab >>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
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
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:nbn:se:su:diva-94887 (URN)978-91-7447-793-1 (ISBN)
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

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