THE USE OF SEGMENTATION CUES IN SECOND LANGUAGE LEARNERS OF ENGLISH
Lin, Candise Yue
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This dissertation project examined the influence of language typology on the use of segmentation cues by second language (L2) learners of English. Previous research has shown that native English speakers rely more on sentence context and lexical knowledge than segmental (i.e. phonotactics or acoustic-phonetics) or prosodic cues (e.g., word stresss) in native language (L1) segmentation. However, L2 learners may rely more on segmental and prosodic cues to identify word boundaries in L2 speech since it may require high lexical and syntactic proficiency in order to use lexical cues efficiently. The goal of this dissertation was to provide empirical evidence for the Revised Framework for L2 Segmentation (RFL2) which describes the relative importance of different levels of segmentation cues. Four experiments were carried out to test the hypotheses made by RFL2. Participants consisted of four language groups including native English speakers and L2 learners of English with Mandarin, Korean, or Spanish L1s. Experiment 1 compared the use of stress cues and lexical knowledge while Experiment 2 compared the use of phonotactic cues and lexical knowledge. Experiment 3 compared the use of phonotactic cues and semantic cues while Experiment 4 compared the use of stress cues and sentence context. Results showed that L2 learners rely more on segmental cues than lexical knowledge or semantic cues. L2 learners showed cue interaction in both lexical and sublexical levels whereas native speakers appeared to use the cues independently. In general, L2 learners appeared to have acquired sensitivity to the segmentation cues used in L2, although they still showed difficulty with specific aspects in each cue based on L1 characteristics. The results provided partial support for RFL2 in which L2 learners' use of sublexical cues was influenced by L1 typology. The current dissertation has important pedagogical implication as findings may help identify cues that can facilitate L2 speech segmentation and comprehension.