Perception and production in L2 acquisition: Phonological and lexical categories in second language learners

The goal of this project is to characterize the phonological and lexical representation of second language learners and the evolution of these representations by examining learners’ perception and production of L2 sounds and their performance on lexical identification tasks. The perceptual data will be related to the development of phonological categories and lexical categories, which themselves may not be fully synchronized over the course of the learning process. The data will be examined in terms of the predictions of two types of lexical access models: abstract representation models vs. exemplar models. In particular, we expect to show that phonological categories may be acquired (or abstracted) at a later stage than lexical categories.

Furthermore, we will investigate two fundamental aspects of the ability to perceive and produce non-native sounds, (i) the amount of variation in cross-linguistic perception (the ability to distinguish L2 sounds from L1 sounds), and (ii) the effect of phonetic training (perceptual tasks aimed at improving learners’ perceptual skills). Here the objective is to examine whether cross-language perception changes as a result of phonetic training; whether L2 perception and production improve with training; and if that improvement stems from increased ability to distinguish L2 sounds from L1 sounds.

Inter-linguistic data will consist of measures of perception, production and word recognition from native and non-native speakers with differing levels of proficiency. The results will be used to postulate and/or identify the principles and cognitive mechanisms underlying the abovementioned language behaviours. The research design is cross-sectional and quasi-experimental.

Department of English & German, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona