What is the relationship between perception and production of novel sounds in a second language? by Gary Linebaugh Southern Illinois University Carbondale
In L1 acquisition, perception precedes production.
There is agreement among some that a similar precedence relationship exists in L2 acquisition. “ESL teachers must never forget that the aural recognition of sounds is by far the most important skill.” (Klein, 2007: 3) “…once you have heard a sound you are well on the way to being able to pronounce it. But if you cannot hear it then you cannot even attempt to pronounce it, and the problem of perception needs to be overcome before any progress can be made.” (Ur, 1996:52) The implication is that perception necessarily precedes production; good perception is prerequisite to accurate pronunciation. Articulatory training is ineffective if perception is incomplete. Second language learners are, in a sense, phonologically deaf. (Llisteri, 1995)
There is some research that backs up these claims Polivanov (1931) and Trubetzkoy (1939) – Sounds of L2 are filtered through L1 phonology. Flege(1991) – Similar sounds in L2 are equated with sounds in L1. Equivalence classification. The notions of a phonological filter and equivalence classification rest on the idea that perception precedes production. Rochet (2009)- There is good correlation between perception and production, and the former takes precedence.
Other research raises questions about the precedence of perception Sheldon and Strange (1982) – Production of /l/ and /r/ by native Japanese speakers was more accurate than perception of those same sounds. Goto (1971)- Perceptual mastery does not necessarily precede production mastery. Flege and Eefting (1987)- Ability of Dutch speakers to produce English-like VOT was more advanced than ability to perceptually discriminate between Dutch-like and English-like VOT. Mack (1989)- In French-English bilinguals, perceptual abilities may lag behind productive abilities.
Effects of articulatory training Catford and Pisoni (1970) – Articulatory training improves production and perception of ‘exotic’ sounds. Weiss (1992) – Explicit training in pronunciation improved perceptual abilities of Chinese learners of English. Sheldon and Strange (1982) – Articulatory training improves production, but production drills do not always bring improvements in perceptual abilities. A good summary of the research looking at the perception-production relationship is found in Llisterri (1995).
The research questions Can production precede and enhance perception? Is articulatory training effective? More specifically This study looks at the effect of explicit instruction in articulation of two English vowels on the ability of Spanish speaking learners of English to perceptually discriminate the two vowel sounds (specifically the vowel sounds in 'buddy’ and 'body'). Do learners who undergo explicit instruction in the production of the vowels improve in terms of ability to perceive the vowels more so than learners who receive only aural instruction?
Acoustic similarity of the two vowels Hayward 2000: 149
The experiment Subjects Second semester English students at Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador. Caracas, Venezuela. Spring, 2008. Experimental group 14 students (6 female, 8 male) Age range- 18 to 42, Average age- 23.9 years Control group 12 students (4 female, 8 male) Age range- 17 to 30, Average age- 21.2 years
Stimuli Minimal pairs- embedded in sentences buddy body Did you see his buddy/ body ? pup pop He gave the toy to his pup/ pop . color collar I don’t know what the new color/ collar will look like. nut not Did he say ‘nut’/ ‘not’ ? wonder wander I wonder/ wander about the forest. bum bomb He saw a bum/ bomb on the way to school. hut hot How do you spell ‘hut’/ ‘hot’ ? luck lock My luck/ lock was bad. cup cop Where is the old cup/ cop ? bus boss The bus/ boss was late this morning. Stimuli were presented via audio recording to eliminate the possibility of using visual cues and to ensure that the stimuli presentation was consistent across the two groups and across time.
Procedure Subjects tested on ability to distinguish the minimal pairs embedded in sentences. Experimental subjects given explicit instruction in production of the two vowels. Control subjects received only aural practice with the two vowels. Subjects tested again on ability to distinguish the minimal pairs. Subjects tested a third time one week later.
The results Control group Number of correct responses in 10 trials Test 1 Mean 5.8 Standard deviation 1.6 Test 2 Mean 6.3 Standard deviation 1.4 Test 3 Mean 6.2 Standard deviation 1.2 Change from test 1 to test 2 not statistically significant. Change from test 1 to test 3 not significant. Experimental group Number of correct responses in 10 trials Test 1 Mean 6.1 Standard deviation 1.7 Test 2 Mean 8.1 Standard deviation 1.6 Test 3 Mean 7.7 Standard deviation 1.6 Change from test 1 to test 2 significant on a paired T-test (t = 11.78, p < .001) Change from test 1 to test 2 significant on a paired T-test (t = 6.32, p < .001)
Conclusions Articulatory training can improve perceptual ability. There is indirect evidence that production can precede perception. (It is indirect because I did not directly measure or rate changes in productive ability.) The claim that perception always precedes production is too strong.
Discussion I do not dispute that pronunciation difficulties in L2 are often or even usually related to a lack of accurate perception. But, it should be recognized that, for at least some sounds, articulatory training improves perception. The implication is that improved production can lead to improved perception. It is not always possible to infer productive abilities from perceptive abilities. The relationship between perception and production is complex and not reducible to categorical statements. The relationship might be different for different classes of sounds.
Limitations of the study No direct measure or rating of production. Possible confounding differences between the two groups. Subjects were fairly inexperienced with English. Would similar results have been found with more advanced learners?
Articulatory instruction Visual/ pictorial Websites http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/ Charts/ diagrams From Celce-Murcia et al (1996:95)
Articulatory instruction (cont.) Charts/ diagrams (cont.) From Avery and Ehrlich (1992: 210)
Articulatory instruction (cont.) Explicit instruction For example - lower the jaw, keep the tongue back/low, round the lips, etc. Produce sounds in sequence /∧a/
Regarding the two vowels of interest The vowel /∧/ is produced with the tongue in a neutral or resting position in the center of the mouth. The vowel /a/ is produced with the tongue low in the back part of the mouth, and with the jaw lowered. The vowel /∧/ is similar to the sound produced when you are hit in the stomach. The vowel /a/ is similar to the sound you make when a doctor wants to look down your throat or to the sound you make to express pleasure upon sipping a cold drink on a hot day.
References Avery, P. & Ehrlich, S. (1992). Teaching American English Pronunciation. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Catford, J.C. & Pisoni, D. (1970). Auditory vs. articulatory training in exotic sounds. Modern Language Journal. 54. 477-481. Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D.M. & Goodwin, J. M. (1996). Teaching Pronunciation: A reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Flege, J. (1991). Perception and production: the relevance of phonetic input to L2 phonological learning. In T. Hueber & C. Ferguson (eds.), Crosscurrents in Second Language Acquisition and Linguistics Theories. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. Pp 249-289. Flege, J. & Eefting, W. (1987). Cross-language switching in stop consonant perception and production by Dutch speakers of English. Speech Communication 6. 185-202. Goto, H. (1971). Auditory perception by normal Japanese adults of the sounds “l” and “r’. Neuropsychologia 9. 317-323. Hayward, K. (2000). Experimental Phonetics. Harlow, England: Pearson Education. Klein. T. (2007). Listen and Speak. Austin: Klein.
References (cont.) Listerri, J. (1995). Relationships between speech production and speech perception in a second language. In K. Elenius & P. Branderudi (Eds.), Proceedings of the XIIIth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Stockholm, Sweden. Vol. 4. pp. 92-99. Polivanov, E. (1931). La perception des sons d’une langue étrangère. In Le Cercle de Prague 3. Paris. Pp 111-14. Rochet, B.L. (2009). Perception and production of L2 speech sounds by adults. In A. Strange (Ed.), Speech Percpetion and Linguistic Experience: Theoretical and methodological issues in cross-language speech research. Timonium, MD: York Press Inc. Sheldon, A. & Strange, W. (1982). The acquisition of /l/ and /r/ by Japanese learners of English: evidence that speech production can precede speech perception. Applied Psycholinguistics 3. 243-261. Trubetzkoy, N.S. (1939). Grundzügederphonologie. Travaux du CercleLinguistique de Prague 7. Paris. Ur, P. (1996). A Course in Language Teaching: Practice and theory. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Weiss, W. (1992). Perception and production in accent training. Revue de PhonétiqueAppliquée 102. 69-81.