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Auteur: Natalia KARTUSHINA

Co-Auteur(s): Uli FRAUENFELDER, Université de Genève, Suisse

L2 phonological acquisition: mismatch between L2 production and perception in Spanish learners of French

Abstract/Résumé: The attainment of native-like pronunciation in L2 is claimed to be beyond the reach of learners who started to acquire this L2 after the age of 6 years (Long, 1990). Different explanations have been proposed for this common phenomenon (Piske et al., 2001). According to one of them, L2 production is based on L2 perception: misperceived sounds are also mispronounced (Flege, 1992; Best, 1995). For instance, according to a perceptual assimilation mechanism, French (FR) contrast /o-O/, would be misperceived by Spanish (SP) learners and the vowel /O/ would be erroneously produced as a SP-like /o/. Therefore, one SP phonological representation /o/ is used for two FR sounds /O/ and /o/. In order to examine this account we assessed the perception and production of isolated FR vowels by L2 SP learners and compared the latter, on the one hand, with the vowels produced by FR native speakers and, on the other hand, with the vowels produced by L2 learners in their native language. Twenty native SP speakers learning FR as their L2 in a Spanish high school were tested on 1) production (vowel repetition, rapid repetition and naming tasks) and identification of the ten FR oral vowels and 2) production of the SP vowels in a reading task. In addition, five native FR speakers pronouncing ten isolated FR vowels were recorded. The formant frequencies (F1/F2) of the produced vowels (for L1 FR, L1 SP and L2 FR) were calculated and compared: L2 FR - L1 FR; L2 FR - L1 SP. Speech onset times (SOT) were measured for the L2 FR vowels in the rapid repetition task. The accuracy of L2 vowel perception was estimated as the percentage of correctly identified vowels. The results revealed that poorly identified vowels were nonetheless correctly produced; there was no correlation between the two. Moreover, some of the L2 vowel contrasts that were confounded in perception were well distinguished in production (p<.05). Comparison L1 FR and L2 FR revealed a more accurate pronunciation (native-like) of the vowels in the repetition task than in the naming task. Our data suggest that 1) production of at least some L2 isolated phonemes is independent of L2 perception; 2) some L2 sounds that perceptually assimilate to one L1 category have different from this L1 sound phonological representations in isolated vowel production context; 3) native-like pronunciation is achieved in the case of immediate repetition.