Prosodic transfer in L2 relative prominence distribution: The case study of Japanese pitch accent produced by Italian learners

Author(s): Motoko Ueyama


Relative prominence distribution, one of the major factors characterizing speech rhythm, is largely determined not only by the position of word accent/stress (word accent, henceforth) but also by the treatment of the acoustic correlates involved in word accent production (e.g., duration, F0, amplitude). Languages differ in both aspects, and those differences are expected to cause prosodic transfer in L2 speech development. This study investigated the production of Japanese pitch accents produced by Italian learners of Japanese as a part of ongoing research on prosodic transfer in L2 word accent production, where languages that differ typologically in timing patterns are combined as L1 and L2. Four speech types, i.e., L1 Japanese, L1 Italian, beginning and advanced levels of L2 Japanese-L1 Italian, were examined, running production experiments. Results of the data analysis support general findings in earlier research on L2 Japanese-L1 English and L2 English-L1 Japanese: a) transfer patterns vary from correlate to correlate (in other words, correlates do not transfer collectively); b) L2 speakers face difficulties in learning phonetic patterns although they are able to produce native-like patterns at the phonological level.