Second language acquisition (SLA) research is rich in possibilities for examining language-specific phonetics and phonology in the cross-linguistic context of acquisition. However, much of the existing English-Spanish research focuses on the acquisition of voice onset time (VOT) of /p, t, k, b, d, ɡ/ or rhotics, or on acquisition in relation to factors such as task type, time abroad, and motivational intensity (e.g. Alvord & Christiansen, 2012; Díaz-Campos, 2004, 2006; Face, 2006; Martinsen, 2010; Martinsen & Alvord, 2012; Shively, 2008; Shively & Cohen, 2008; Tanner, 2012 a, 2012b; Zampini, 1994). Like these studies, the present study incorporates linguistic and extralinguistic variables, but this time focusing on Spanish /l/ acquisition in native English speakers. Furthermore, the present study investigates L2 lateral liquid /l/ acquisition by comparing L2 results with previously established L1 research of /l/. Reviewing a variety of SLA phonological research in a wide range of contexts, I include in this study nine independent variables based on syllabic context, phonetic context, level of learning, task type, and motivational intensity. The L2 Spanish /l/ data came from digitally recorded speech samples from 21 L2 Spanish speakers and were compared with a benchmark established by similar recordings from two L1 English and two L1 Spanish speakers. All participated in conversational and reading tasks, and all the L2 participants completed a background questionnaire for demographic and linguistic experience data and the Survey of Motivational Intensity (Gardner, 1985) to measure individual motivational intensities to learn Spanish. From these data, target-like /l/ acquisition was determined by acoustically derived formant measurements and tested for significance in a variety of variables. Of the independent variables, syllabic context proved to be collinear with vowels preceding and following /l/ and motivational intensity was not statistically significant. Moreover, the results prove that syllabic context, certain preceding and following phonetic segments, level of learning, and task type all have a significant effect on successful L2 Spanish /l/ acquisition.



College and Department

Humanities; Spanish and Portuguese



Date Submitted


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second language acquisition, velarization, phonology, pronunciation, syllabic context, phonetic context, speech style, motivational intensity