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Schwa reduction in low-proficiency L2 speakers: Learning and generalization

Morano, L., Ernestus, M., & Ten Bosch, L. (2015). Schwa reduction in low-proficiency L2 speakers: Learning and generalization. In Scottish consortium for ICPhS, M. Wolters, J. Livingstone, B. Beattie, R. Smith, M. MacMahon, J. Stuart-Smith, & J. Scobbie (Eds.), Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2015). Glasgow: University of Glasgow.
This paper investigated the learnability and generalizability of French schwa alternation by Dutch low-proficiency second language learners. We trained 40 participants on 24 new schwa words by exposing them equally often to the reduced and full forms of these words. We then assessed participants' accuracy and reaction times to these newly learnt words as well as 24 previously encountered schwa words with an auditory lexical decision task. Our results show learning of the new words in both forms. This suggests that lack of exposure is probably the main cause of learners' difficulties with reduced forms. Nevertheless, the full forms were slightly better recognized than the reduced ones, possibly due to phonetic and phonological properties of the reduced forms. We also observed no generalization to previously encountered words, suggesting that our participants stored both of the learnt word forms and did not create a rule that applies to all schwa words.
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