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Adjustments in foot-structure by French L2 learners of English in spontaneous speech: (short and) long term effects

Abstract : The present study evaluates the production of foot-structure by French learners of English in a series of spontaneous conversations with American English speaking Tandem partners. While the evidence for the division of languages into distinct rhythm classes remains inconsistent (Arvaniti, 2012), there is consensus that languages differ in their overall rhythmic tendencies and that the foot has a status as a temporal unit of speech production in English (Kim & Cole, 2005; Asu & Nolan, 2006). Support for the latter comes from the phenomenon of polysyllabic shortening, i.e. as the number of syllables within a foot increases, the duration of each syllable, in particular the stressed syllable, is shortened even though the duration of the foot is lengthened. The question we investigate in this study is to what degree French learners of English (with French claimed to be ‘syllable-timed’) show a comparable pattern of polysyllabic compression in spontaneous L2 speech. Moreover, we are interested in whether French learners adjust, or become more similar, in their rhythmic patterns to those of their interlocutors during a single conversational session, and/or to what extent these patterns change over time as a result of long-term exposure. We used five language pairs of native speakers of French (F) and American English (GA) of the SITAF corpus of English-French Tandem interactions (Horgues & Scheuer, 2014). For each pair, two conversations (7-8 mins/each), recorded four months apart, were analyzed in terms of foot and stressed syllable duration as a function of the number of syllables in a foot. To date, the data of two pairs have been analyzed (with the results of the remaining pairs available by the time of the conference). While subject F1 shows a clear pattern of polysyllabic shortening, subject F2 shows a prominent interference of the rhythmic properties between her L1 and L2 – with a strong increase in foot duration as a function of syllable count. This increase is only partially due to a weaker compression of the stressed syllable component, but more prominently due to a lack of drastic reduction in unstressed syllable position. Comparing the foot-structure in early and late samples of each conversation between GA and French speakers, we found little evidence for short-term rhythmic adjustments. However there is an overall tendency for subject F2 to improve over-time with stronger durational shortening at the end of the four-month period. The results will be discussed in light of the different mechanisms underlying L2 rhythm as well as methodological problems in defining syllables and feet in English.
Keywords : french l2 learners
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Conference papers
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Submitted on : Friday, January 6, 2017 - 12:54:57 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 27, 2021 - 3:48:32 PM

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Barbara Kühnert, Tanja Kocjančič Antolík. Adjustments in foot-structure by French L2 learners of English in spontaneous speech: (short and) long term effects . International Symposium on Monolingual and Bilingual Speech (ISMBS 2015), Sep 2015, Chania, Greece. ⟨halshs-01428297⟩

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