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Spanish speakers’ English schwar production: Does orthography play a role?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 August 2021

Christine Shea*
Departments of Spanish and Portuguese and Linguistics, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA
Corresponding author. Email:


This study examines how input mode – whether written or auditory – interacts with orthography in the production of North American English (NAE) schwar (/ɝ/, found in fur, heard, bird) by native Spanish speakers. Greater orthographic interference was predicted for written input, given the obligatory activation of orthographic representations in the execution of the task. Participants were L1 Mexican Spanish/L2 English speakers (L2, n = 15) and NAE (n = 15, rhotic dialect speakers). The target items were 10 schwar words and 10 words matched in graphemes to the onset and nucleus of the schwar words (e.g., bird was matched with big), for a total of 20 items. The degree of overlap between schwar productions across group and input mode (L2 only) was analyzed, followed by a generalized additive mixed model analysis of F3, one of the acoustic cues to rhotacization. Results showed that L2 schwar productions were different from the NAE productions in both the overlap and F3 measures, and the written input mode showed greater L1 orthographic interference than the auditory input mode, supporting the hypothesis that L1 orthography–phonology correspondences affect L2 productions of English schwar words.

Original Article
© The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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