Skip to main content Accessibility help

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



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.


Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Bene Bassetti, Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL, England. E-mail:


Hide All
Alario, F. X., Perre, L., Castel, C., & Ziegler, J. C. (2007). The role of orthography in speech production revisited. Cognition, 102, 464475. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2006.02.002
Bassetti, B. (2014). First and second language orthographies affect second language phonology: The orthography-induced singleton-geminate consonant contrast in second language speakers of English. Manuscript submitted for publication.
Bassetti, B., Hayes-Harb, R., & Escudero, P. (2015). Second language phonology at the interface between acoustic and orthographic input. Applied Psycholinguistics, 36, 1–6.
Beers, C. S., & Beers, J. W. (1992). Children's spelling of English inflectional morphology. In Templeton, S. & Bear, D. R. (Eds.), Development of orthographic knowledge and the foundations of literacy: A memorial festschrift for Edmund H. Henderson (pp. 231251). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Bertinetto, P. M., & Loporcaro, M. (2005). The sound pattern of Standard Italian, as compared with the varieties spoken in Florence, Milan and Rome. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 35, 131151.
Best, C. T., & Tyler, M. D. (2007). Nonnative and second-language speech perception: Commonalities and complementarities. In Munro, M. J. & Bohn, O.-S. (Eds.), Second language speech learning: The role of language experience in speech perception and production (pp. 1334). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Bohn, O.-S. (1995). Cross-language speech perception in adults: First language transfer doesn't tell it all. In Strange, W. (Ed.), Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research (pp. 279304). Timonium, MD: York Press.
Brown, C. M. (2000). The interrelation between speech perception and phonological acquisition from infant to adult. In Archibald, J. (Ed.), Second language acquisition and linguistic theory (pp. 463). Oxford: Blackwell.
Browning, S. R. (2004). Analysis of Italian children's English pronunciation. Report contributed to the EU FP5 PF STAR Project. Retrieved from
Bryant, P., Nunes, T., & Bindman, M. (1997). Children's understanding of the connection between grammar and spelling. In Blachman, B. (Ed.), Linguistic underpinnings of reading (pp. 219240). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Carney, E. (1994). A survey of English spelling. Oxford: Routledge.
Chen, M. (1970). Vowel length variation as a function of the voicing of the consonant environment Phonetica, 22, 129159.
Clark, J., & Yallop, C. (1995). An introduction to phonetics and phonology. Oxford: Blackwell.
Cohen, J. D., MacWhinney, B., Flatt, M., & Provost, J. (1993). PsyScope: A new graphic interactive environment for designing psychology experiments. Behavioral Research Methods, Instruments, and Computers, 25, 257271.
Cook, V. J. (2004). The spelling of the regular past tense in English: Implications for lexical spelling and dual process models. In Bergh, G., Herriman, J., & Mabärg, M. (Eds.), AIMO: An International Master of Syntax (pp. 5968). Gothenburg, Sweden: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis.
Cook, V. J., & Bassetti, B. (2005) An introduction to researching second language writing systems. In Cook, V. & Bassetti, B. (Eds.), Second language writing systems (pp. 167). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Davidson, L. (2010). Phonetic bases of similarities in cross-language production: Evidence from English and Catalan. Journal of Phonetics, 38, 272288.
Davies, G., Dillon, S., & Dillon, T. (1993) Master your spelling: Book 1 (2nd ed.). Cheltenham: Stanley Thomes.
d’Imperio, M., & Rosenthall, S. (1999). Phonetics and phonology of main stress in Italian. Phonology, 16, 128.
Erdener, V. D., & Burnham, D. K. (2005). The role of audiovisual speech and orthographic information in nonnative speech production. Language Learning, 55, 191228.
Escudero, P., & Boersma, P. (2004). Bridging the gap between L2 speech perception research and phonological theory. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 26, 551585.
Escudero, P., Hayes-Harb, R., & Mitterer, H. (2008). Novel second-language words and asymmetric lexical access. Journal of Phonetics, 36, 345360.
Escudero, P., & Wanrooij, K. (2010). Learning the phonological forms of new words: Effects of orthographic and auditory input. Language and Speech, 53, 361381.
Flege, J. E., Bohn, O.-S., & Jang, S. (1997). Effects of experience on non-native speakers’ production and perception of English vowels. Journal of Phonetics, 25, 437470.
Flege, J. E., MacKay, I. R., & Meador, D. (1999). Native Italian speakers’ perception and production of English vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 106, 2973.
Hall, N. (2011). Vowel epenthesis. In van Oostendorp, M., Ewen, C. J., Hume, E., & Rice, K. (Eds.), The Blackwell companion to phonology (pp. 15761596). Oxford: Wiley–Blackwell.
Hayes-Harb, R., Nicol, J., & Barker, J. (2010). Learning the phonological forms of new words: Effects of orthographic and auditory input. Language and Speech, 53, 367381.
Klatt, D. (1976). Linguistic uses of segmental duration in English: Acoustic and perceptual evidence. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 59, 12081221.
Krebs-Lazendic, L., & Best, C. T. (2013). First language suprasegmentally-conditioned syllable length distinctions influence perception and production of second language vowel contrasts. Laboratory Phonology, 4, 435474.
Landis, J. R., & Koch, G. C. (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics, 33, 10891091.
Marslen-Wilson, W. D. (2007). Morphological processes in language comprehension. In Gaskell, M. G. (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of psycholinguistics (pp. 175193). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Nimz, K. (2011). Vowel perception and production of late Turkish learners of L2 German. Paper presented at the 17th International Congress of the Phonetic Sciences, Hong Kong, August 17–21.
Nooteboom, B. G., & Doodeman, G. J. (1980). Production and perception of vowel length in spoken sentences. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 67, 276287.
Piske, T., Flege, J. E., MacKay, I. R. A., & Meador, D. (2002). The production of English vowels by fluent early and late Italian-English bilinguals. Phonetica, 59, 4971.
Pytlyk, C. (2011). Shared orthography: Do shared written symbols influence the perception of L2 sounds? Modern Language Journal, 54, 541557.
Rafat, Y. (2011). Orthography-induced transfer in the production of novice adult English-speaking learners of Spanish. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Toronto.
Roach, P. (2004). British English: Received pronunciation. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34, 239245.
Rogers, D., & d’Arcangeli, L. (2004). Italian. Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 34, 117121.
Turk, A., Nakai, S., & Sugahara, M. (2006). Acoustic segment durations in prosodic research: A practical guide. In Sudhoff, S., Lenertova, D., Meyer, R., Pappert, S., Augurzky, P., Mleinek, I., et al. (Eds.), Methods in empirical prosody research (pp. 128). Berlin: de Gruyter.
Vokic, G. (2011). When alphabets collide: Alphabetic first-language speakers’ approach to speech production in an alphabetic second language. Second Language Research, 27, 391417.
Wells, J. C. (2000). Longman pronunciation dictionary. Harlow: Pearson Education.
Young-Scholten, M. (2002). Orthographic input in L2 phonological development. In Burmeister, P., Piske, T., & Rohde, A. (Eds.), An integrated view of language development: Papers in honour of Henning Wode (pp. 263279). Trier, Germany: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier.
Young-Scholten, M., Akita, M., & Cross, N. (1999). Focus on form in phonology: Orthographic exposure as a promoter of epenthesis. In Robinson, P. & Jungheim, N. O. (Eds.), Pragmatics and pedagogy: Proceedings of the third PacSLRF (Vol. 2, pp. 227233). Tokyo: Aoyama Gakuin University.
Young-Scholten, M., & Hannahs, S. S. (1997). Current issues in the first and second language acquisition of phonology. In Hannahs, S. S. & Young-Scholten, M. (Eds.), Focus on phonological acquisition (pp. 114). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Zampini, M. L. (1994). The role of native language transfer and task formality in the acquisition of Spanish spirantization. Hispania, 77, 470481.
Zampini, M. L. (2008). L2 speech production research: Findings, issues, and advances. In Edwards, J. G. H. & Zampini, M. L. (Eds.), Phonology and second language acquisition (pp. 219249). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

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



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed