The purpose of this thesis is to study whether target-like articulation of the Spanish tap [ɾ] and trill [r] is achieved by second language learners who have lived in a Spanish-speaking environment for an extensive period of time. The subjects of this study were students at Brigham Young University (BYU) who had spent 18 months to two years in a Spanish-speaking country. Most of the subjects had little to no previous Spanish instruction, but rather learned the language primarily through their contact with native speakers while abroad. In addition to whether or not subjects achieved target-like pronunciation of these two Spanish sounds, this study sought to observe whether or not certain linguistic factors (e.g., neighboring sounds, syllable stress, etc.) and extra-linguistic factors (e.g., previous Spanish instruction, instructors who were native speakers of Spanish, articulation in formal or informal speech, etc.) had influence on their articulation. The results of this study reveal that the subjects were generally successful in articulating the Spanish rhotic sounds. The majority of the subjects pronounced the rhotics in a target-like manner over 80% of the time. Furthermore, while previous studies have claimed that the transfer of the American English approximant [ɹ] is the most common error when acquiring the Spanish tap and trill, the current study suggests that the most common error of L2 speakers who have lived abroad is developmental: the production of the tap [ɾ] in place of the trill /r/. Lastly, it reveals, through the results of a variable rule analysis, that the two most significant factors in accurate tap and trill articulation are its phonetic context and whether or not the participants had received adequate Spanish instruction prior to having lived abroad.



College and Department

Humanities; Spanish and Portuguese



Date Submitted


Document Type





second language acquisition, Spanish, tap, trill, rhotic, contact learning environment