This paper demonstrates the contribution of a theory of phonological licensing to the understanding of the L2 acquisition of position-sensitive contrasts. The data analysed come from studies of the acquisition of coda voicing (Japanese-English, Sekiya and Jo 1997) and coda place (Mandarin-English, Wang 1995; Mandarin-French, Steele 2002). The incorporation of the principle of phonological licensing into a theory of the L2 acquisition of phonology not only allows for a formalization of phonological transfer, but also makes predictions for possible interspeaker differences in development. More specifically, in those cases where the L1 and target grammars differ in the types of position-sensitive contrasts permitted, two possible developmental paths exist. The first path involves the licensing of the new featural content in a strong licensing position. In the case of coda contrasts, this may be accomplished via epenthesis, which allows the content to be licensed in an onset, or via parasitic licensing. In those cases where neither epenthesis nor parasitic licensing is licit, a second path exists: feature change (e.g. devoicing), where learners will only license those features of a segment's representation permitted in the interlanguage grammar following transfer.
Proceedings of the 7th Generative Approaches to Second Language Acquisition Conference (GASLA 2004)
edited by Laurent Dekydtspotter, Rex A. Sprouse, and Audrey Liljestrand
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