Year of Study in Programme: First

Supervisor: Dr Juli Cebrian

Area/Topic of Research: Language Acquisition

Title/Provisional Title of Thesis: The Acquisition of English Consonant Clusters by Kurdish EFL Learners

Short Abstract: Acquiring the phonological system of a second language (L2) is a challenge for adult L2 learners. Nevertheless, as a result of adequate input and formal pronunciation instruction, L2 learners may develop a more target-like L2 system (Flege, 1995). This thesis aims to study the acquisition of English onset and coda clusters by Kurdish EFL learners and to explore the role of formal instruction and experience. Kurdish consonant clusters consist of maximally two consonants, whereas English syllable structure is more complex, i.e., (CCC)V(CCCC), which poses a problem to Kurdish EFL learners. By contrast, Kurdish has a greater number of possible consonant combinations, including some that violate the sonority principle. However, the status of some of these sequences has not been settled (e.g. Shokri, 2002; Hasan, 2009) and Kurdish speakers have been reported to insert epenthetic vowels in English s+C clusters (e.g. Keshavarz, 2017; Omer and Hamad, 2016). This study will test the tenets of the Structural Conformity Hypothesis (Eckman, 1991) and the Speech Learning Model (Flege, 1995). The first model predicts that those elements that are more marked will be more difficult to acquire while the SLM highlights the role of L2 experience in L2 learning. Thus, this thesis will evaluate the production and perception of English onsets and codas by three different groups of Kurdish EFL learners differing in amount of L2 experience and formal instruction. This study will also contribute to the literature on Kurdish phonology, as asecond aim of the study is to explore the perception and production of these clusters in L1 Kurdish.