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Orthography plays a limited role when learning the phonological forms of new words: The case of Spanish and English learners of novel Dutch words

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 January 2015

PAOLA ESCUDERO*
Affiliation:
University of Western Sydney
*
ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Paola Escudero, MARCS Institute, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith South, Sydney, Australia. E-mail: paola.escudero@uws.edu.au

Abstract

Some previous studies have shown that the availability of orthographic information leads to positive effects for second language (L2) phonology, while others document negative effects. In this paper, we examine the role of orthography on novel spoken-word learning by comparing word pairs that differed in most or all of their segments (nonminimal pairs) and those that only differed in one phoneme (minimal pairs) that was considered easy or difficult to discriminate. We tested the performance of learners whose native languages have transparent orthographies as well as learners with opaque orthographies. Our findings show that regardless of linguistic background and native orthographic system, availability of orthographic information during word learning did not have an effect on nonminimal pairs or perceptually easy minimal pairs. However, it had a positive effect on two minimal pairs that had the highest accuracy among the seven perceptually difficult ones, indicating that orthography only helped contrasts that were relatively easy to discriminate. The implications of these findings for L2 teaching and for future directions within L2 phonology are discussed.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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