The development of L2 categorization in multiple scenarios

TitleThe development of L2 categorization in multiple scenarios
Publication TypePresentation
Year of Publication2004
Conference NameWorkshop on First and Second Language Acquisition
AuthorsEscudero, Paola
PublisherNederlandse Vereniging voor Fonetische Wetenschappen
Conference LocationNijmegen, The Netherlands

Phonemic and phonetic mismatches between the sound categories of different languages frequently lead to problems in L2 acquisition. Following the simple, and widely accepted, assumption of L1 transfer, it is predicted that we will find at least three different learning scenarios for the categorization of L2 sounds, namely starting with fewer sound categories, starting with more categories and starting with similar but not equal categories. I will present different L2 categorization cases that illustrate each of the three scenarios: The learning of the English vowels /i/ and /I/ by Spanish speakers will be shown to represent the first scenario, the second scenario will be illustrated by the learning of the Spanish vowels /i/ and /e/ by Dutch listeners, and the learning of the Canadian French vowels /ae/ and /E/ by Canadian English speakers will be shown as an example of the third scenario. For each scenario, two arguments about the staring point will be put forward. First, it is argued that the L2 starting point equals the cross-language categorization of the vowel sounds at hand (e.g. the native Spanish categorization of English /i/ and /I/ or the Dutch native categorization of Spanish /i/ and /e/). And second, it is argued that the learner is faced with a different L2 learning problem in each of the scenarios, namely learning to categorize more vowels, learning to categorize less vowels and learning to re-categorize vowels. As for solving the L2 learning problems, following the, perhaps, controversial assumption of availability of L2 development, it will be argued that the L2 learners can modify their initial L2 categorization in order to gradually approximate native categorization. Crucially, it is claimed that the learners of each scenario will adjust their L2 vowel categorization through different developmental (sequence of) strategies. The results of cross-language and L2 categorization experiments will be shown to confirm the hypothesised L2 scenarios as well as the hypothesised L2 developments.