The Effect of L1-L2 Vowel Category Mapping on L2 Word Learning: English Speakers Learning Arabic Pseudo-Words [thesis]

Lubna Safaa
Adult language learners often face challenges perceiving unfamiliar speech sounds. Models of second language (L2) speech perception suggest that adults learn L2 through the "filter" of their first language (L1), frequently resulting in misperception and the production of accented speech. The present study had two goals: 1) to examine the learning of a demanding L2 speech contrast by English listeners, and 2) to investigate the role of cognitive resources when learning novel phoneme categories.
more » ... he first goal was achieved by asking English listeners to learn Arabic vowels embedded in word-like contexts. Unlike English, Arabic uses vowel length as a primary acoustic cue to vowels. English speakers who had no experience with Arabic were presented 36 pseudo-words containing Arabic vowels in a word-learning experiment. The stimuli contained three Arabic short vowels /i,u,a/ and their long counterparts. The task required listeners to learn to associate the pseudo-words with complex images of non-existent objects. The second goal of the study was achieved by looking at the relationship between learning performance and two types of cognitive resources, working memory and attention. Working memory was measured using a span task and the attention was measured using the Attention Network Task. Results yielded no statistically significant effect of vowel type or length on word learnability, nor did participants' performance on the word-learning task improve significantly over five learning blocks. A small, nonsignificant positive relationship between attentional capacity and overall performance was observed. The results indicate that although listeners may have been able to perceive the difference between the Arabic vowels, learning to associate the novel phonemes to novel concepts may have been too difficult for participants. Suggestions for future work are discussed. III
doi:10.22215/etd/2014-10216 fatcat:a7rhgciopfgjlpgqsnju6haq2e