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The Perception of Vowel Epenthesis and Word Stress in an English as a Lingua Franca Context

This  article  aims  at  presenting  two  experiments  that  investigated  the  intelligibility of Brazilian speakers’ production of words ending with the –ed  morpheme and production of words stressed on the fourth to last syllable of  suffixed 
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    Proceedings   of    the   International   Symposium   on   the    Acquisition   of    Second   Language   Speech   Concordia   Working   Papers   in    Applied   Linguistics  ,   5,   2014   ©   2014   COPAL    The Perception of Vowel Epenthesis and Word Stress in an English as a Lingua Franca Context Maria   Lúcia   de   Castro   Gomes   Universidade   Tecnológica   Federal   do   Paraná   Andressa   Brawerman ‐ Albini   Universidade   Tecnológica   Federal   do   Paraná   Ana   Paula   Petriu   Ferreira   Engelbert   Universidade   Tecnológica   Federal   do   Paraná   Abstract This   article   aims   at   presenting   two   experiments   that   investigated   the   intelligibility   of   Brazilian   speakers’   production   of   words   ending   with   the    –ed   morpheme   and   production   of   words   stressed   on   the   fourth   to   last   syllable   of   suffixed   words.   Three   groups   of   listeners,   English   native   speakers,   Brazilian   speakers,   and   non ‐ native   speakers   other   than   Brazilians   transcribed   the   sentences   produced    by   Brazilians   with   different   levels   of   English   proficiency.   Under   the   assumption   of   English   as   a   Lingua   Franca   (Jenkins,   2000)   and   the   propositions   of   Probabilistic   Linguistics   (Bod,   Hay   &    Janedy,   2003),   the   intelligibility   of   Brazilian   English   is   discussed.   The   great   relevance   of   this   study   is   the   contribution   to   second   language   research,   especially   regarding   the   lingua   franca   core   and   the   perception   of   Brazilian   speakers’   English.    Maria Lúcia de Castro Gomes et al 186   The   starting   point   for   this   article   is   the   fact   that   English   is   today   the   worldwide   means   of   communication   among   people   from   different   nationalities,   and   that   more   and   more   often   conversation   in   English   will   take   place   without   the   presence   of   a   native   speaker.   Embracing   sociolinguistic   facts   of   variation,    Jenkins   (2000)   proposes   a   lingua   franca   core   (LFC)   –   a   set   of   priorities   for   English   language   teaching.   In   establishing   the   priorities,    Jenkins   argues   that   in   the   production   of   consonant   clusters,   epenthesis   is   preferable   to   consonant   deletion.   She   also   mentions   that   inadequate   word   stress   assignment   rarely   causes   intelligibility   problems   for   non ‐ native   speakers.   Although   these   two   features   are   not   included   in    Jenkins ʹ LFC,   they   are   usually   problematic   for   Brazilians ʹ production   of   English.   According   to   several   studies,   a   relevant   aspect   of   a   Brazilian   speaker ʹ s   accent   in   English   is   the   production   of   an   epenthetic   vowel   in   words   with   the   – ed   morpheme   (Alves,   2004;   Delatorre,   2006;   Gomes,   2009).   Regarding   stress   assignment,   Brawerman   (2006)   shows   that   Brazilians   have   difficulties   assigning   stress   on   the   fourth   to   last   syllable   in   English   words.   Based   on   these   factors,   this   article   will   present   the   results   from   a   study   on   the   perception   of   verbs   in   the   regular   past   tense   and   words   stressed   on   the   fourth   to   last   syllable   produced    by   Brazilian   speakers.   The   listeners   were   divided   in   three   groups:   native   speakers,   non ‐ native   speakers   other   than   Brazilians,   and   Brazilians.   The   objective   of   the   research   was   to   test    Jenkins’   LFC   concerning   the   phenomena   of   epenthesis   and   word   stress.   The   relevance   of   this   study   is   its   contribution   to   second   language   research,   especially   regarding   the   lingua   franca   core   and   the   perception   of   Brazilian   speakers’   English.   THE THEORETICAL BASES For   decades,   studies   of   L2   phonology   or   interlanguage   phonology   have   discussed   the   relationship    between   transfer,   development,   and   universal   factors   during   second   language   acquisition.   Various   new   ideas   on   language   acquisition   have   led   researchers   to   review   positions   on   the   concepts   of   transfer,   language   development,   and   marking.   Probabilistic   Linguistics   (Bod,   Hay   &    Janedy,   2003)   has   shed   some   new   light   on   language   acquisition   of   sounds.   We   part   from   two   models   found   in   probabilistic   notions   to   focus   our   research:   Usage ‐  based   Phonology   (Bybee,   2001,   2006,   2010)   and   the   Exemplar   Model   (Pierrehumbert,   2003).   According   to   Bod   et   al.   (2003),   language   shows   evidence   of   a   probabilistic   system.   Categories   and   word   formation   are   gradient,   and   frequency   effects   are   in   all   contexts   of   analysis,   permeating   the    The perception of vowel epenthesis and word stress in ELF 187   representations   of   language   processing   and   linguistic   change.   All   levels   of   representation   in   phonetics   and   phonology   show   statistical   variation   and   the   speakers   have   implicit   knowledge   of   this   change   (Pierrehumbert,   2003).   Phonetic   coding   of   items   is   probabilistic,   with   these   same   items   competing   for   primacy.   Probabilistic   linguistics   considers   linguistic   categories   as   distributions   and   conceives   linguistic   knowledge   not   as   a   limited   amount   of   categorical   restrictions,    but   as   a   series   of   gradient   rules   that   can    be   characterized    by   statistical   distribution   (Bod   et   al,   2003).   For   Bybee   (2010),   language   is   not   a   fixed   mindset.   If   it   were,   the   categories   would    be   discrete.   As   language   is   a   mental   structure   in   constant   use   and   always   filtered   through   processing   activities   which   cause   changes,   there   is   variation   and   gradience   in   the   forms.   In   a   usage ‐  based   phonology,   grammar   is   seen   as   the   cognitive   organization   of   the   experience   a   speaker   has   with   language   (Bybee,   2006).   With   use,   the   linguistic   items   acquire   pragmatic,   semantic   and   phonological   characteristics.   In   this   model,   three   points   are   crucial:   the   creative   role   of   repetition,   the   effects   of   frequency   and   the   emerging   character   of   grammar.   Following   the   same   line   of   thought,   in   the   Exemplar   Model   there   are   also   three   fundamental    bases:   phonetic   details,   gradience   of   mental   representations,   and   the   notion   of   frequency.   As   a   result   of   contact   with   the   language,   the   speaker   will   make   an   exemplar   map,   forming   clouds   and   taking   into   account   social,   pragmatic,   semantic,   morphological,   phonological   and   phonetic   factors.   According   to   Pierrehumbert   (2001),   a   cloud   of   detailed   memory   is   associated   with   each   category,   and   the   most   frequent   categories   have   more   exemplars   and   are   more   easily   activated   than   less   frequent   categories.   As   can    be   seen,   Probabilistic   Linguistics   is    based   on   three   pillars:   the   dynamic   character   of   language,   the   gradience   of   linguistic   forms,   and   the   effects   of   frequency.   Aligned   with   the   view   of   dynamicity,   gradience   and   frequency   is   the   perspective   of   English   as   a   Lingua   Franca,   which   seems   to    be   a   perfect   match   for   the   assumptions   of   the   models   described   above.   THE PERSPECTIVE OF TEACHING/LEARNING ENGLISH AS A LINGUA FRANCA Years   ago   when   faced   with   the   responsibility   to   choose   a   variety   of   English   to   teach,   there   was    but   a   simple   dichotomy:   American   English   or   British   English?   Today   the   existence   of  ʺ New   Englishes ʺ (Crystal,   2010)   is   gaining   ground   in   discussions   about   the   status   of   English   in   international    Maria Lúcia de Castro Gomes et al 188   communication.   According   to    Jenkins   (2000),   speakers   of   English   as   an   L1   have   lost   the   right   to   dictate   the   standards   of   pronunciation   for   its   use   as   an   L2.   From   her   research,    Jenkins   (2000)   establishes   a   series   of   priority   items   in   relation   to   teaching   English   pronunciation,   which   she   calls   LFC  ‐ Lingua   Franca   Core.   Containing   characteristics   of   American   English,   British   English   and   varieties   of   English   as   L2,   the   LFC,   according   to    Jenkins,   allows   for   some   freedom.   As   the   focus   is   intelligibility,   specific   characteristics   of   native   varieties   that   are   difficult   for   the   learner   to   acquire   should   not    be   considered   for   teaching   if   not   relevant   in   international   communication.   According   to   Walker   (2010),   pronunciation   teaching   can   have   two   different   orientations,   one   focused   on   communication   with   native   speakers  ‐ the   teaching   of   English   as   a   Foreign   Language   (EFL),   and   the   other   focused   on   international   intelligibility  ‐ the   teaching   of   English   as   a   Lingua   Franca   (ELF).   The   author   presents   a   number   of   concerns   and    benefits   in   adopting   an   approach   to   teaching   English   as   a   Lingua   Franca,   and   then   suggests   several   teaching   techniques.   In   short,    Jenkins   (2000)   defines   the   priorities   for   the   teaching   of   English   pronunciation   as   an   international   language   in   her   LFC,   and   Walker   (2010)   employs    Jenkins’   core   in   the   classroom,   which   involves   not   only   production    but   also   perception   of   the   English   sound   system.   According   to   this   new   perspective,   teachers   and   material   writers   will   need   information   about   the   New   Englishes   and   Brazilian   English   will   definitely    be   one   of   them.   STUDIES ABOUT BRAZILIAN ENGLISH This   section   describes   some   studies   about   Brazilian   English   regarding   the   –ed   morpheme   and   stress   assignment.   The –ED Morpheme Several   researchers   have   analyzed   the   production   of   words   ending   in   the   – ed   morpheme,   all   of   them   confirming   the   tendency   of   Brazilians   to   insert   an   epenthetic   vowel .   Alves   (2004)   investigated   the   influence   of   instruction   and   showed   that   students   can    be   helped   to   perceive   input   details.   Delatorre   (2006)   examined   the   preceding   phonological   environment   and   discovered   that   a   preceding   consonant   induces   more   epenthesis   than   a   preceding   vowel,   and   that   some   consonants   induce   more   epenthesis   than    The perception of vowel epenthesis and word stress in ELF 189   others.   Another   variable   investigated    by   Delatorre   (2006)   was   orthography,   which   also   exerts   influence   in   epenthesis   production.   Frese   (2006)   investigated   the   relationship    between   production   and   perception   and   suggested   that   the   latter   precedes   the   first.   Gomes   (2009),   after   investigating   the   influence   of   previous   phonological   environment s   and   crossing   categories   with   word   frequency,   concluded   that   not   only   token   frequency,    but   also   type   frequency   affected   the   production   of   words   with   – ed   morpheme    by   Brazilians.   To   verify   intelligibility   of   words   ending   in   – ed    by   Brazilian   speakers   of   English,   Fernandes   (2010)   conducted   a   research   project   with   Portuguese   and   Indian   listeners.   The   Brazilians   were   recorded   creating   short   stories   and   reading   small   texts.   The   Portuguese   and   Indians   listened   to   the   recording   and   were   asked   to   evaluate   the   performance   of   the   speakers.   According   to   the   researcher,   the   level   of   intelligibility   varied    between   the   Portuguese   listeners,   speakers   of   English   as   a   Foreign   Language   (EFL),   and   Indian   listeners,   speakers   of   English   as   a   Second   Language   (ESL).   While   for   the   Portuguese   listeners,   the   Brazilians   had   a   74,19%   level   of   intelligibility,   for   the   Indian   listeners   the   level   of   intelligibility   was   48,38%.   The   author   concluded   that   the   characteristics   from   different   mother   tongues   which   cause   problems   for   communication   should    be   presented   to   students   through   explicit   instruction.   On   the   other   hand,   those   characteristics   which   do   not   cause   communication   problems   should   not    be   considered.   Word Stress According   to   Roach   (2009),   an   incorrect   stress   assignment   may   lead   to   intelligibility   problems   for   foreign   speakers.   Likewise,   Kenworthy   (1987)   suggests   that   when   a   speaker   is   not   able   to   understand   a   word,   it   is   very   common   that   the   problem   lies   in   wrong   stressing   rather   than   in   an   inadequate   pronunciation   of   a   specific   sound.   Cruz   (2011)   has   authored   a   series   of   studies   that   tests   the   intelligibility   of   Brazilian   speakers   of   English    by   native   English   speakers.   The   author   suggests   that   word   stress   is   the   most   important   aspect   for   the   intelligibility   of   English   as   a   foreign   language.   Various   studies   have   worked   with   the   difficulties   regarding   word   stress   for   Brazilian   speakers   of   English.   Two   of   them   (Brawerman,   2006;   Brawerman ‐ Albini,   2012)   work   with   a   difficult   stress   pattern   for   Brazilians:   words   stressed   on   the   fourth   to   last   syllable.   This   stress   pattern   is   practically   non ‐ existent   in   Brazilian   Portuguese   and   it   can    be   argued  
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