Danish accent in two different L2's. Observations on the phonetics of Danish learners' L2 French and L2 German

With Pernille Berg Johnsson (PhD student, Uppsala) & Lars Behnke.

Pernille Berg Johnsson (University of Uppsala)

Perceived phonetic (dis)similarity and the learning of French obstruents in L1 Danish first year French university students.

According to the recently revised Speech Learning Model (SLM-r), “…the perceived phonetic dissimilarity of an L2 sound from the closest L1 sound is an important determinant of whether a new category will or will not be formed for it.” (Flege, Aoyama & Bohn 2021, p. 89) With the aim to 1) follow, compare and gain new knowledge of L1 Danish and L1 Swedish French students’ perception and production of French obstruents during a learning period and 2) learn more about the same students’ perception of own L2 pronunciation and phonetic-phonological awareness at the end of a university course in French phonetics, we did a series of perception and production tests in the beginning and at the end of their first term of studies at a Scandinavian university.

In this presentation, I will focus on the Danish data and one perception task in particular; a perceptual assimilation experiment with twelve participants. How do L1 Danish first year French students identify French L2 obstruents in terms of L1 categories before and after an initial term at university? To what extent are the L2 sounds in question perceived to be similar to/dissimilar from the closest L1 sound in the students’ individual phonetic inventories? Does the students’ L2-L1 mapping change as they receive phonetic instruction? Perception of French obstruents in Danish learners has been studied earlier (cf. Hedevang 2007), but the present thesis is the first to investigate these learners’ perceived phonetic (dis)similarity and to follow their possible development when they are exposed to regular, systematic phonetic instruction and pronunciation training. Preliminary results will be discussed. They indicate a need for nuancing the difficulties that these sounds represent for L1 Danish learners of French.

  • HEDEVANG, L. (2007). Talt fransk i danske ører. Ordgenkendelse og ordgenkendelsesstrategier hos danske fransklearnere. Aarhus: Department of languages, literature and culture, Aarhus University.
  • FLEGE, J.E., AYOAMA, K. & BOHN, O.-S. (2021).The Revised Speech Learning Model (SLM-r) Applied. In: Wayland, R. (red.), Second language speech learning: theoretical and empirical progress. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p. 84-118.

Lars Behnke (University of Copenhagen)

Danish accent i L2 German

Flege’s Speech Learning Model (e.g. Flege 1995) predicts, that L2 sounds which are perceived as sufficiently dissimilar to the closest corresponding L1 sound can be learnt more adequately than similar L2 sounds. Thus, German [χ] as in Nacht should have a better chance to be mastered by Danish L1 learners than, say, German [z] as in reisen. But adequacy of one and the same L2 sound differs, both individually and lexically. How can these differences be accounted for?
Sounds are usually learnt as part of words, so perceived cross-linguistic word similarity might interrelate with sound similarity and explain differences in the distribution of accent phenomena. I will present the results of an experimental pilot study on the question if Danish accent in L2 German is harder to overcome in cognate words than in non-cognates.

  • Flege, J.E. 1995: Second language speech learning. Theory, findings and problems. In: W. Strange (ed.), Speech perception and linguistic experience. Issues in cross-language research. Timonium, MD, 229–273.

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