Task-effects in the L2 perception and production of English sentence types by L1 Spanish speakers

Author(s): Laura Colantoni, Gabrielle Klassen, Matthew Patience, Malina Radu and Olga Tararova

Abstract

In the present paper we investigated the acquisition of three English sentence types, statements (S), absolute yes-no questions (AQ), and declarative questions (DQ), by L1 Spanish-L2 English adult speakers. Learners of English must acquire not only the syntactic and intonational cues that distinguish AQs from DQs, but also the pragmatic distinction between the two. Participants completed two production and three perception tasks involving increasing levels of access to contextual meaning, in order to determine learners’ ability to combine both syntactic and intonational cues in the correct pragmatic context. Results indicate that L2 English speakers demonstrate difficulty acquiring the distinction between AQs and DQs. Learners incorrectly used AQs in contexts where DQs should be used in both perception and production, although error rates were much higher in production. Evidence of cross-linguistic influence in the use of prosodic cues was observed in the production task, where learners tended to produce a higher pitch accent in interrogatives than statements, a characteristic of Spanish interrogatives. The results of this study provide further support for the claim that more open-ended tasks increase the degree of cross-linguistic influence.

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