Syllable Structure Effects in Word Recognition by Spanish- and German-Speaking Second Language Learners of English

  • Maria Teresa Martinez-Garcia University of Utah, Asia Campus


Previous findings in the literature point to the influence that speech perception has on word recognition. However, which specific aspects of the first (L1) and second language (L2) mapping play the most important role is still not fully understood. This study explores whether, and if so, how, L1-L2 syllable-structure differences affect word recognition. Spanish- and German-speaking English learners completed an AXB and a word-monitoring task in English that manipulated the presence of a vowel in words with /s/-initial consonant clusters—e.g., especially versus specially. The results show a clear effect of L1 on L2 learners’ perception and word recognition, with the German group outperforming the Spanish one. These results indicate that the similarity in the syllable structure between English and German fosters positive transfer in both perception and word recognition despite the inexact segmental mapping.

Author Biography

Maria Teresa Martinez-Garcia, University of Utah, Asia Campus
Maria Teresa Martinez-Garcia completed her PhD in linguistics at the University of Kansas in 2016. Her research interests focus on experimental linguistics, particularly bilingualism and second language speech perception and production. Currently she is as an assistant professor in the World Languages & Cultures Department at the University of Utah, Asia Campus.


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