The body of the literature examining the acquisition of Spanish rhotics is expanding (e.g., Canfield, 1940; Face, 2006; Rose, 2010; Hurtado & Estrada, 2010). Most studies on the acquisition of Spanish rhotics have focused on how students progress at different levels of instruction (e.g., Rose, 2010; Hurtado & Estrada, 2010) while various other factors have been shown to affect the second language acquisition of phonology, such as style variation (e.g., Diaz-Campos, 2006; González--Bueno, 1997; Zampini, 1994), L1 transfer (e.g., Major, 2001), and experience abroad (e.g., Díaz-Campos, 2004, 2006; Lafford, 2006). Work on the acquisition of the Spanish tap and trill by regular classroom students has consistently shown that these sounds, especially the trill, are difficult to master for adult English speaking learners (e.g., Reeder, 1998; Face, 2006). However, the influence of factors such as cultural sensitivity, motivation, and experience abroad has been relatively understudied. This study explores the influence of these factors on the second language acquisition of the pronunciation of Spanish rhotics. In order to investigate the acquisition of Spanish pronunciation, 39 adult learners of various levels of instruction participated in the study. Participants completed a background questionnaire, the Survey of Motivational Intensity (Gardner 1985), and the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) as a measure of cultural sensitivity. Learners' speech was recorded as they completed three different tasks, including a brief oral interview, the reading of a story, and a world list including rhotics in six different phonetic contexts that students were asked to read aloud. The tasks were recorded digitally and production of the tap and trill was analyzed spectrographically using Praat. Finally, the relationship between the aforementioned factors and target-like production of /ɾ/ and /r/ was explored with a crosstab analysis combined with an ANOVA analysis and a multiple regression analysis. The results show that neither Motivational Intensity nor Cultural Sensitivity have an influence in the acquisition of Spanish rhotics. Level of instruction and time of residence are the main predictors of target like pronunciation of the Spanish rhotics. The phonetic context harder to acquire is the trill after an alveolar consonant while the easiest is the tap between vowels.



College and Department

Humanities; Spanish and Portuguese



Date Submitted


Document Type





second language acquisition, rhotics, pronunciation, phonology, motivational intensity, intercultural development, phonetic context, speech style, level of instruction