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DO LEARNERS LIGHTEN UP?: Phonetic and Allophonic Acquisition of Spanish /l/ by English-Speaking Learners

  • Megan Solon (a1)

This study explores the second language (L2) acquisition of a segment that exists in learners’ first language (L1) and in their L2 but that differs in its phonetic realization and allophonic patterning in the two languages. Specifically, this research tracks development in one aspect of the production of the alveolar lateral /l/ in the L2 Spanish of 85 native English speakers from various levels of study and compares L2 productions to those of native Spanish speakers as well as to learners’ L1 English. Additionally, laterals produced in specific contexts are compared to examine learners’ acquisition of L2 allophonic patterning, as Spanish contains a subset of the lateral allophones that exist in English. Results suggest development toward nativelike norms in the phonetic details of Spanish /l/ and in allophonic patterning. These findings have implications for existing theoretical accounts of L2 speech learning, which cannot adequately account for the learning situation examined.

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*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Megan Solon, Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures, University at Albany, SUNY, 1440 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY 12222. E-mail:
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I would like to thank Kimberly Geeslin, Erik Willis, Manuel Díaz-Campos, and Isabelle Darcy for their guidance on and support of the dissertation project (conducted at Indiana University) that serves as the basis for this manuscript. I would also like to thank the anonymous SSLA reviewers whose comments and suggestions greatly improved this article. Thanks also go to Lotfi Sayahi for his feedback on more recent versions of the article and Michael Frisby of the Indiana Statistical Consulting Center for his assistance with the statistical analyses. All errors that remain are my own.

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