The perception of postalveolar english obstruents by spanish speakers learning english as a foreign language in Mexico

Mariela López Velarde, Miquel Simonet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The present ∫study∫ deals with the perception (identification and discrimination) of an English phonemic contrast (/t /–/ /, as in cheat and sheet) by speakers of two Mexican varieties of Spanish∫ who∫ are learning English as a foreign language.∫ Unlike English,∫ Spanish does not contrast∫ /t / and∫ / / phonemically. Most Spanish varieties have [t ], but not [ ]. In northwestern Mexico, [ ] and [t ] find themselves in a situation of “free” variation—perhaps conditioned,∫ ∫ to some extent, by social factors, but not in complementary distribution. In this variety, [ ] and [t ] are variants of the same phoneme. The present study compares the perceptual behavior of English learners from∫ northwestern Mexico, with that of learners from central Mexico, whose native dialect includes only [t ]. The results of a word-categorization task show that both groups of learners find cheat and sheet difficult to identify in the context of each other, but that, relative to the other learner group, the group of learners in northwestern Mexico find this task to be particularly challenging. The ∫results∫ of a categorical discrimination task show that both learner groups find the members of the /t /–/ / contrast difficult to discriminate. On average, accuracy is lower for the group of learners in northwestern Mexico than it is for the central Mexicans. The findings suggest that the phonetic variants found in one’s native dialect modulate the perception of nonnative sounds and, consequently, that people who speak different regional varieties of the same language may face different obstacles when learning the sounds of their second language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number27
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalLanguages
Volume5
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Affricate
  • Cross-linguistic assimilation
  • Dialect
  • Discrimination
  • English
  • Fricative
  • Obstruent
  • Phonology
  • Second language acquisition
  • Spanish

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language
  • Language and Linguistics

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