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Perceiving Intonational Cues in a Foreign Language: Perception of Sentence Type in Two Dialects of Spanish
John C. Trimble
78-92 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Research on the acquisition of L2 Spanish intonation is complicated by the fact that Spanish intonation has been shown to vary considerably by dialect (e.g., Prieto & Roseano, 2010; Sosa, 1999). For example, Castilian Spanish and Venezuelan Andean Spanish differ greatly in the intonational cues they use to distinguish broad-focus declaratives and absolute interrogatives (i.e., yes-no questions). As one of the first of its kind, the present study sets out to further investigate the acquisition of L2 Spanish intonation by including dialectal variation. The L2 perceptual abilities of learners with varying experience with Spanish were compared to those of native speakers (as documented in Face, 2005, 2007; Mora, Rojas, Méndez & Martínez, 2008). For the experimental data, 43 learners of L2 Spanish listened to lexically identical pairs of declaratives and interrogatives that were produced by speakers of Castilian Spanish, Venezuelan Andean Spanish, and a nonnative speaker. In general, most learners had great difficulty perceiving sentence type when they were presented with partial utterances that were missing the final pitch movement, thereby demonstrating that they relied principally on a rise/fall contrast, which distinguishes declaratives and absolute interrogatives in American English and many varieties of Spanish. Furthermore, when listening to entire utterances, the circumflex pattern of Venezuelan Andean absolute interrogatives was significantly more difficult than the other contours. However, six learners that had spent a semester studying abroad in Mérida, Venezuela performed significantly better when listening to the Venezuelan Andean utterances. Therefore, these learners demonstrated that L2 Spanish intonation perception can develop during prolonged exposure to a distinct variety of Spanish.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 15th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Chad Howe, Sarah E. Blackwell, and Margaret Lubbers Quesada
Table of contents
Printed edition: $310.00