The role of transfer in determining the phonological core

Jenkings, J (2000) The phonology of English as an international language: new models, new norms, new goals
Betty Medina


Jenkings throughout this chapter is trying to identify a phonological core on which speakers rely on, how does the natural process of transfer occur, and its implications toward international intelligibility. Now lets try to understand the process of phonological transfer and its effects.

but if L1 is different from L2 = difficulty in acquisition. CAH lost credibility among SLA researchers . Remember Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (CAH)? If L1 is similar to L2 = simplicity in acquisition.The complex process of L1 phonological transfer     Historically. L1 transfer was thought to involve „interference‟ of old L1 habits in the acquisition of new L2 habits.

but in a far more complex way. The complexity of phonological transfer comes from its interactions with a number of other processes and factors:      universal processes developmental processes stylistic and contextual factors habit formation and automaticity notions of ambiguity . it was welcomed back again as having a major role in adult L2 acquisition.  However.

and Stampe done in the 1960s and 1970s demonstrate how the nature of human language and human articulatory and perceptual systems sometimes work against the phonological acquisition of an L1. Further research has revealed the tendencies of these universal linguistic constraints operating in L2 acquisition similar to that of L1 acquisition. . Smith.Transfer plus universal processes   Earlier works by researchers such as Jakobson.

>„crisp‟ becomes /kp/ – In fully developed L1 speech: >walked by‟ becomes /w:k ba/ – In L2 acquisition there is the same tendency for cluster simplification and epenthesis may occur: >An Arabic learner of English may pronounce ‘film’ as /fl m/ because in their L1 there is a difficulty in pronouncing the cluster /lm/ . Consonant deletion and epenthesis as an example: – an L1 child acquisition tendency to avoid consonant clusters.

Polish. and Russian.Schwa paragoge and terminal devoicing  Schwa paragoge: “the addition of schwa to word-final obstruents (plosives.” – Mandarin permits only vowels and sonorant consonants (approximants. – „tag‟ may be pronounced /tæg /  Terminal devoicing: “the loss of voice on certain word-final consonant sounds. fricatives.  These have been shown to be motivated by universal phonological constraints. and affricates). – Terminal devoicing is motivated for grammars of a number of first languages such as German. liquids. . and nasals) in word final position.

It also occurs in the English of speakers of Cantonnese. What accounts for the apparent universal tendency for terminal devoicing? – Eckman. for whom this is not a native-like process. Spanish.  Terminal devoicing does not have to occur in a speaker‟s L1 for it to occur in L2. . and Hungarian. explains it through the notion of relative degree of difficulty and for this he uses the concept of typological markedness.

. on terms of voicing contrasts. In a language like German. but does allow them in word-medial and word-initial position. if cross-linguistically the presence of A in a language necessarily implies the presence of B. voiced consonants are not allowed in word-final position. are also allowed in word-medial and word initial position. but the presence of B does not necessarily imply the presence of A. however. in a language like English where both voiced and voiceless consonants are allowed in word-final position.” For example.   Typological markedness: “A phenomenon A in some language is more marked relative to phenomenon B.

“The areas of difficulty that a language learner will have can be predicted on the basis of a systematic comparison of the grammars of the native language and the markedness relations stated in universal grammar. the more difficult it would be to acquire.Markedness Differential Hypothesis (MDH)   The principle of difficulty-related-to-markedness is summed up by Eckman in the Markedness Differential Hypothesis. .” – In other words the more marked the difference between the native language feature and the target language feature.

. This theory may also help clarify the use of epenthesis by a native Spanish speaker learning English as we have seen before in class.  MDH explains why German learners of English have a greater difficulty with the voicing of final voiced consonants than do English learners who have less considerable difficulty learning the devoicing of all final consonants.

. grammar and lexis may differ greatly from one language to another.Pronunciation    In pronunciation. L1 knowledge serves as a starting point for second language acquisition (SLA). Pronunciation has a stronger influence than grammar and lexis since we are able to apply our knowledge of the L1 phonological and phonetic inventory with greater ease. In contrast.

Jenkings suggests that it is crucial to accept L1 phonological transfer as a universal. but we can encourage learners by letting them know that it is not wrong to have an accent. I agree with Jenkings in that getting rid of a learner‟s pronunciation is not beneficial for the learner especially if the EIL intelligibility is not affected. Many times learners of a second language are discouraged because of their lack of “sounding” the same as teachers. can be categorized within the L1 system and may be approximated to the L2. . even if they are different from L1.    L2 phonological features. Therefore.

For example.Transfer plus developmental processes    It is not always easy in making a distinction between developmental and the universal processes. Jenkings mentions reports of L1 children terminal devoicing of fricatives. This may be because of both developmental as well as a universal processes. .

Therefore. Moscowitz suggests the problem with interdental fricatives are due to insufficient motor control. It is known that these sounds are mastered last and substituted frequently by English native speakers. this may explain why L2 learners from all L1 backgrounds have difficulty with these sounds. .Fricatives: Interdentals // and / /    In a study done with a 2 year old.

” since they are unlikely to proceed to the developmental stage where items are fully acquired. For example an L1 child learner uses “the native pre-language system”.” while a L2 adult learner will use his “native language system”. “unteachable.Are these items unteachable for L2 learners?    Jenkings points out that there is a difference from how L1 learners and L2 learners deal with difficulties in the language. This means that some items will be hard to teach or as Jenkings puts it. .

Thai learners were asked to imitate sentences by humming the intonation contour and ignoring segmental information. What causes these differences? . The results show tone is one of the earliest aspect of Thai to be acquired by children and one of the latest acquired by adults. in correlation exclusively through acquisition tone.Ioup and Tamsomboon‟s study (1987)     They examined the age differences in relation to second language acquisition.

For example. when humming was divorced from other aspects of the linguistic system adults performed the task easily. Adults already possessing tone and all aspects of second language system use the left hemisphere. use the right hemisphere. . and children who have yet to develop the cognitive framework to process linguistic data.Cognitive processes involved   Ioup and Tansomboom argue that the differences arise from the cognitive processes involved.

. cognitive processes may make it unattainable for an adult L2 learner. it may be a waste of time trying to teach these features of language I think that teachers should focus on other linguistic features which may affect EIL intelligibility. According to Jenkings. Much exposure is needed to attain a native-like accent and as we have seen. Jenkings suggests that non-pedagogic exposure should be encouraged by teachers and may be the best resource an L2 adult learner can rely on.Native-like accent?      Pitch movement is known as a difficult task to teach among adult L2 learners.

phonological transfer decreases in formal speech contexts and increases in informal ones.Transfer process plus stylistic and contextual factors      Style refers to the degree of formality. Schmidt studied Arabic speakers of English and found the subject‟s pronunciation underwent variation during colloquial speech and not formal speech. According to Jenkings. This may happen because in formal contexts there is less opportunity of repetition or clarification and greater likelihood of embarrassment resulting from unintelligibility. Research shows that the degree of attention to speech depends on the formality of the task. .

” In terms of teaching. it is better to focus on the problematic phonological context rather than the difficult item by itself. . increasing the number of non-target-like variants. the author suggest that when a target item is more difficult and therefore susceptible to transfer because of the phonological context it is in. “Some environments have a facilitating effect.”increasing the number of target-like variants.   Linguistic context also interacts with phonological transfer. while other environments seem to be “debilitating.

modifying the phonological habits of a lifetime is not encouraged.” using the articulation of word-medial stop consonants. advanced Danish English learners still use voiced stop consonants in medial position in words like bitter.Habit formation and automaticity      The production of speed sounds is an automatized motor skill. in unattended speech. For example. it is difficult to de-automatize L1 speech habits in L2. unlike that of lexis and syntax. . rapid. This results from the “Danish phonological plan. and liter. Consequently. Once again the author suggests that unless the international intelligibility is threatened.

This is because learners rely more heavily on previous cognitive experiences to process new language information. believes that interlingual identifications is the number one SLA strategy.Cognitive factors: perceptions of L1-L2 similarity     If there are similarities between L1 and L2 the early stages of language acquisition are facilitated. Interlingual identification occurs when a learner “perceives resemblances across certain features of the L1 and L2” and this in turn influences a learner in the production of an L2 feature the same way it is produced in the L1. . Selinker.

which occurs because of the L1-L2 similarity judgments. L1-L2 similarity no longer is equated with ease of acquisition and difference with difficulty. On the contrary.   However. target-like production seems to be affected by fossilization. The problem is that categorical sound perception is not necessarily equal to allophonic equivalence. .

” An example: A Thai student pronouncing the word „philosophy‟ as [kwelasokwi] because [kw] and [f] are variants of the same phoneme in the Thai language. . Researchers describe it as “the limiting effect of previous phonetic experience.   Studies have demonstrated that new sounds are acquired more accurately than those that were similar to their L1.

Implications for EIL intelligibility     The author states that more phonetic production classwork is needed Also. L1-L2 similarities and exposure to a wide range of L2 English accents can be great tools inside the classroom. . in that teachers should focus on how knowledge of the L1 pronunciation system can help learners understand what is heard in the L2. Focusing on pronunciation universals. that their is a greater need for the pedagogic distinction between the ways learners are encouraged to make use of their L1 knowledge in production and reception. I agree with Jenkings.

Weinberger argues that all natural languages contain a constrain against ambiguity.Notions of ambiguity     There have been several studies done on the notion of ambiguity. . Further studies demonstrate that speakers concerned with phonological intelligibility prefer using strategies of addition instead of deletion. In these studies subjects from several L1 backgrounds employed “phonological adjustments” motivated by the reduction of ambiguity.

Therefore. our purpose as teachers is to help our students communicate in an L2 language. native-like accent should not be our goal. . Language transfer process plays an important role in interlanguage phonology. We cannot expect learners to easily give up their L1 accents and variants When items are difficult for universal or developmental reasons. Finally. it should be examined if such items would obstruct EIL intelligibility.Conclusion      Phonological transfer occurs through various complex processes and can be of great benefit to learners.

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