The long road from phonological knowledge to phonetic realization: An acoustic account of the temporal composition of Mandarin L2 English

Author(s): Chao-Yu Su and Chiu-Yu Tseng


Producing continuous speech in L2 is a challenging task. We accept that the composition of speech tempo involves multiple linguistic levels of contributions. We further hypothesize that respective contributions in the speech signal could be better accounted for through normalization of acoustic contributions, and examined the English phonetic inventory, the way stress type (primary, secondary and tertiary), boundary type (non-phrase final, continuation rise, final rise and final fall), as well as focus status (non-focus, function words, broad focus and narrow focus). Analyses of speech data of L1 vs. Mandarin L2 English not only verified the contribution of each factor examined, but also demonstrate in what explicit ways the temporal composition of Taiwan Mandarin L2 English differs from the L1 norm. In short, a discrepancy between linguistic awareness and phonetic execution leads to difficulties by lower level units such as segments and stress patterns; whereas higher level planning difficulties leads to deviations exhibited in boundary adjustments and realization of broad and narrow focus contrasts. We believe the results shed new light on temporal composition both L1 and L2 English, facilitate better understanding of tempo structure that can be directly applied to L2 teaching and computer aided training.


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