Identification of the contrast full vowel-schwa: training effects and generalization to a new perceptual context

Ilha do Desterro,Special Issue: English interphonology

This study examines the ability to identify the English phonological contrast full vowel-schwa by Spanish learners of English after two different types of training: auditory versus articulatory. Perceptual performance was measured in words in order to investigate effect of training and in sentences in order to investigate acquisition robustness in students’ ability to generalize to a context which was not used during training. The subjects were divided into three groups: two experimental groups (one undergoing perceptual training and another undergoing production based training) and a control group. Both experimental groups’ perception of the reduced vowel improved significantly after training. Results indicated that students were able to generalize their reduced vowel identification abilities to the new context – in sentences. The control group did not show any significant improvement. Our findings coincide with studies that have demonstrated positive effects of L2 phonetic training (Catford & Pisoni, 1970; Rochet, 1995; Cenoz & García Lecumberri, 1997). Interestingly, the results also support the facilitating view between perception and production since production training proved beneficial in the development of perceptual abilities (Catford & Pisoni, 1970; Mathews, 1997). Finally, our data showed that training resulted in robust learning since students were able generalize their improved perceptual abilities to a new context.