Modified Approximants in L2 Spanish Teacher Talk

Modified Approximants in L2 Spanish Teacher Talk:
What are Students Hearing in the L2 Classroom?
Meghan V. Huff
Department of Linguistics
University of Pittsburgh
originally to find individual differences in L2 Spanish pronunciation
all students (level 2) had substantial L1 influence
noticed the teacher was varying her pronunciation
pronunciation was changing within recordings and between students
Research Questions
• what phonetic modifications are present in this example of L2 teacher talk?
• what factors may influence phonetic variance in L2 teacher talk?
• what questions are raised that will lead to further investigation?
For the stop-approximant system in L2 Spanish Teacher Talk, there was a
greater likelihood of approximant realization for:
• conversation > reading
• functional categories > lexical categories
• fluid student interlocutor > halting student interlocutor
Proposed continuum used in L2 teacher talk and English/Spanish interlanguage systems
• labial:
• coronal:
• velar:
‘beber’ to drink, ‘tuve’ I got/had
‘divertido’ fun(adj), ‘nada’ nothing
‘amigo’ friend, ‘haga’ do(subj.)
[b] ~ [β] ~ [β̞]
[d̪] ~ [ð] ~ [ð̞]
[g] ~ [ɣ] ~ [ɣ̞]
** [v] is occasionally found and expected due to orthographic interference **
** [d] is not found in the sample, but may occur in extreme cases of misunderstanding **
Spanish 0002 midterm oral exams (interviews) recorded via iPad
student verbal consent obtained, existing recordings used (n=19)
recording environment was noisy, as other exams were conducted in the same room
data screened through Praat and only a few were clear enough for acoustic analysis
impressionistic results were recorded generally, with context
generalizations were made to design future research and experiments
Stop v. Approximant
Phonetic Adaptation in L2 Teacher Talk
Linguistic Experience
Teaching Experience
• Native speakers or Nonnative speakers
• Time spent abroad
• Implicit and explicit
knowledge of language
• Proficiency
• Register
• Methodological training
• Years of experience in
the classroom
• Familiarity with content
• Prior experience with
teaching the level
Student Level of
Motivation to
Class level
Individual struggles
Past performance
Signaling for help
Teaching philosophy
Classroom environment
Perspectives on the
nature of
Future Directions
• teacher recordings in the classroom, wider sample, and clearer data
• statistical testing of influence of key factors, listed in chart above, on adaptation
• production and perception experiments, to explore the impact of modified input on
student outcomes vis a vis experience and exposure
• creation of an interventional program to improve student pronunciation outcomes
• creation of a phonetic training program for teachers to create awareness of accentinducing transfer and increase ability to train students in pronunciation
Selected Resources
Beebe, L. M., & Giles, H. (1984). Speech accommodation theories: A discussion in terms of second language acquisition. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 46(1), 5-32.
Eckman, F. (1987). Markedness and the contrastive analysis hypothesis. Interlanguage phonology, 125-44.
Face, T. L., & Menke, M. R. (2009). Acquisition of the Spanish voiced spirants by second language learners. In Selected Proceedings of the Eleventh Hispanic Linguistics Symposium (pp. 39–52).
Ivanova, J. P. (2011). The effects of teacher talk on l2 learners’ comprehension (Masters Thesis, The University of Utah).
Lindblom, B. (1990). Explaining phonetic variation: a sketch of the H&H theory. In Speech production and speech modelling (pp. 403-439). Springer Netherlands.
Major, R. (2002). The phonology of the L2 user. Portraits of the L2 User, 65-92.
Milk, R. D. (1990). Can Foreigners Do “Foreigner Talk"?: A Study of the Linguistic Input Provided by Non-Native Teachers of EFL. Texas Papers in Foreign Language Education, 1(4), 274-288. ERIC # ED345502
Saito, K., & van Poeteren, K. (2012). Pronunciation-specific adjustment strategies for intelligibility in L2 teacher talk: results and implications of a questionnaire study. Language Awareness, 21(4), 369–385. doi:
Shea, C. E., & Curtin, S. (2011). Experience, representations and the production of second language allophones. Second Language Research, 27(2), 229–250.
Terrell, T. (1990). Foreigner talk as comprehensible input. Georgetown University Roundtable on Language and Linguistics, 193-206.
Vokic, G. (2010). L1 allophones in L2 speech production: The case of English learners of Spanish. Hispania, 93(3), 430–452.
Zampini, M. L. (1994). The role of native language transfer and task formality in the acquisition of Spanish spirantization. Hispania, 470–481.
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