25.4134, Diss: Arabic (Standard), English; Applied Linguistics, Language Acquisition, Phonology: Shehata: 'When Variability Matters in Second Language Word Learning...'

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LINGUIST List: Vol-25-4134. Sat Oct 18 2014. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 25.4134, Diss: Arabic (Standard), English; Applied Linguistics, Language Acquisition, Phonology: Shehata: 'When Variability Matters in Second Language Word Learning...'

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Date: Sat, 18 Oct 2014 22:38:14
From: Asmaa Shehata [rasmenia1 at gmail.com; asm.shehata at gmail.com]
Subject: When Variability Matters in Second Language Word Learning: Talker Variability and Task Type Effects

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Institution: University of Utah 
Program: Linguistics 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2013 

Author: Asmaa Shehata

Dissertation Title: When Variability Matters in Second Language Word Learning:
Talker Variability and Task Type Effects 

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics
                     Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): Arabic, Standard (arb)
                     English (eng)

Language Family(ies): Indo-European

Dissertation Director(s):
Second Language Acquisition

Dissertation Abstract:

This study addressed the role of talker variability in the perception of
nonnative contrastive phonemes by adult second language (L2) learners who had
no prior knowledge with the target language. Specifically, the study explored
how training with varying talkers could affect native English speakers'
acquisition of the Arabic pharyngeal-glottal contrast, which is not
distinctive in their native language. The present study also examined the
effects of task type on learners' word recognition ability.
To accomplish this, the present study included two main experiments:
Experiment 1 (nonlexical task) and Experiment 2 (lexical task). Sixty adult
native speakers of English (with no Arabic experience) participated in the two
experiments, 30 subjects in each experiment who were randomly assigned to
either a single- or multiple-talker word learning groups. Subjects in the two
experiments were presented with nine nonword minimal pairs where six pairs
contrasted the Arabic /h/ and /h/ phonemes and three pairs included familiar
sound contrasts (i.e., / s / and /f /). The nine nonword pairs were assigned
to pictures indicating their meanings and subjects learned the nine nonword
pairs in the training phase and were then tested on them later in the testing
Findings of Experiment 1 demonstrated a significant effect of training type (p
< .001), a significant effect for item type ( p < .001), and a significant
interaction of training type and item type (p < .001) for subjects in the
multiple-talker environment. That is, their performance was more accurate
(91.5%) than the single-talker group (67%). The same significant findings were
found in Experiment 2 where again, subjects in the multiple-talker training
group performed more accurately on test items better than their counterparts
in the single-talker training group (single-talker group = 65%;
multiple-talker group = 87%).
Overall, the results of this experiment provided evidence that multiple-talker
training did have a significant effect on the subjects' recognition of the
target contrast in a nonlexical discrimination task with above 88% average
accuracy. Findings also provided evidence supporting learners' ability to
establish lexical representations for the newly learned words that included
the target Arabic contrasting phonemes with above 83% average accuracy for
only the multiple-talker training group. Even though subjects' scores differed
on the two discrimination tasks, this difference was found to be statistically
insignificant. That is, subjects' ability to discriminate the novel contrasts
was the same on the lexical task as on the nonlexical task regardless of the
two tasks' distinct demands.
Findings of the two experiments imply that variability in talkers can
contribute to acquiring nonnative contrasting phonemes. Results are considered
in relation to their implications for understanding the learning process of L2
novel phoneme contrasts and their lexical processing.

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