A longitudinal study of the oral properties of the French-English interlanguage : a quantitative approach of the acquisition of the /ɪ/-/iː/ and /ʊ/-/uː/ contrasts

Abstract : This study undertakes to assess the evolution of the phonological acquisition of the English /ɪ/-/i:/ and /ʊ/-/u:/ contrasts by French students. The corpus is made up of recordings of spontaneous conversations with native speakers. 12 students, 9 females and 3 males, were recorded over 4 sessions in six-month intervals. The approach adopted here is resolutely quantitative, and agnostic with respect to theories of second language acquisition such as Flege's, Best's or Kuhl's. In order to assess the potential changes in pronunciations, an automatic procedure of alignment and extraction has been devised, based on PRAAT (Boersma 2001). Phonemic and word alignments had been carried out with SPPAS (Bigi 2012) and P2FA (Yuan & Liberman 2008) beforehand. More than 90,000 vowels were thus collected and analysed. The extracted data consist of information such as the number of syllables in the word, the transcription of its dictionary pronunciation, the structure of the syllable the vowel appears in, of the preceding and succeeding phonemes, their places and manners of articulation, whether they belong to the same word or not, but also especially of the F0, F1, F2, F3 and F4 formant values. These values were collected at each centile of the duration of the vowel, in order to be able to take into account of the influences of consonantal environments. Besides, theories such as vowel-inherent spectral changes (Nearey & Assmann (1986), Morrison & Nearey (2006), Hillenbrand (2012), Morrison (2012)), and methods of signal modelling such as discrete cosine transforms (Harrington 2010) need formant values all throughout the duration of the vowel. Then the reliability of the automatic procedure, the per-vowel statistical distributions of the formant values, and the normalization methods appropriate to spontaneous speech are studied in turn. Speaker differences are assessed by analysing spectral changes, mid-temporal formant values and discrete cosine transforms with normalized values. The methods resorted to are the k nearest neighbours, linear and quadratic discriminant analyses and linear mixed effects regressions. A temporary conclusion is that the acquisition of the /ɪ/-/i:/ contrast seems more robust than that of the /ʊ/-/u:/ contrast.
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Adrien Méli. A longitudinal study of the oral properties of the French-English interlanguage : a quantitative approach of the acquisition of the /ɪ/-/iː/ and /ʊ/-/uː/ contrasts. Linguistics. Université Sorbonne Paris Cité, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018USPCC097⟩. ⟨tel-02309362⟩

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