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Effects of orthographic forms on pronunciation in experienced instructed second language learners

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 January 2015

University of Warwick
University of York


In spite of burgeoning evidence that the orthographic forms (“spellings”) of second language (L2) words affect L2 learners’ pronunciation, little is known about the pronunciation of known words in experienced learners. In a series of four studies, we investigated various orthographic effects on the pronunciation of L2 English words in instructed learners with 10 years’ experience of learning English. Participants were native users of the phonologically transparent Italian writing system. Study 1 investigated the pronunciation of “silent letters,” using a word-reading task and a word-repetition task. Study 2 examined the effects of vowel spelling on vowel duration, namely, whether L2 speakers produce the same target vowel as longer when it is spelled with a vowel digraph than with a singleton letter. Study 3 explored the effects of the morphemic spelling of the past tense marker <ed> using a verb paradigm-production task. Study 4 tested whether L2 speakers produce homophonic words differently when they are spelled differently. Results confirmed that orthographic forms affect experienced instructed learners’ pronunciation of known words, albeit less so in immediate word repetition than in reading-aloud tasks.

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