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Everyone Is Different, So Everyone Is the Same – Intra-individual Variation in Second Language Acquisition

Christiane Ulbrich


This paper presents the results of an analysis of production data ob - tained from twelve female native Spanish learners of L2 German recorded during a collaborative map-task in order to investigate phonetic accommodation. Phonetic accommodation is a process by which speakers increasingly select variants produced by an interlocutor in conversation. The focus of the study is on the realisation of neutralisation of final voicing contrast in plosives, a process found in German but not in Spanish according to existing contrastive analysis. Two main objectives were pursued in the study: (i) whether phonetic accommodation varies depending on the proficiency level of the participants as well as that of the interlocutor and (ii) whether individual subsegmental characteristics are affected differently. The findings show that both proficiency level and interlocutor influence the degree of accommodation. The findings also reveal that not all analysed subsegmental cues show comparable accommodation effects, and that the realisation of individual subphonemic cues leads to a high degree of inter- and intra-speaker variation. The greatest accommodation effects were found in conversations of highly proficient, non-native participants with a native speaker of German but also with a highly proficient non-native interlocutor. Participants with lower proficiency levels showed comparatively fewer accommodation effects. The degree of intra-individual variation seems to vary depending on proficiency level, in that the distribution of target-like and non-target-like realisations differs between L2 speakers of high and low proficiency. However, both target-like and non-targetlike realisations occur in the speech samples of all L2 speakers.

© 2021 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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