L2 Spanish /l/: The roles of F2 and segmental duration in foreign accent perception

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Conference Proceeding

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Spanish pronunciation manuals often cite the interference of English dark, or velarized, lateral in the second language (L2) Spanish of native English learners as a major contributor to the perception of foreign accentedness (e.g., Schwegler, Kempff, & Ameal-Guerra, 2010; Whitley, 2002). The present study examines the roles of tongue position, as measured by the second formant (F2), and segmental duration in the contribution of the lateral segment to the degree of perceived foreign accent in L2 Spanish. Specifically, 38 native Spanish speakers listened to 120 Spanish words that contained coda laterals (60 target items and 60 distractors) and rated them on the degree of foreign accent perceived. The tokens were selected to systematically cross high (i.e., nativelike) and low (i.e., velarized) F2 values with short, nativelike, and long lateral segmental durations. The foreign accent ratings were then analyzed as a function of the independent variables of position in the word, F2 frequency, and segment duration. Results indicate that both formant frequency and segment duration contribute to the perception of a foreign accent, and that these variables impact foreign accent perception differently depending on the position of the lateral segment in the word.