Examining L1 Brazilian Portuguese speakers' sensitivity to English nuclear stress assignment

Hanna Kivistö-de Souza

Abstract


Abstract: The aim of this paper was to examine whether Brazilian Portuguese learners of English are aware of English nuclear stress assignment and whether this awareness is affected by the utterance type. To the date, little research has been carried out about the acquisition of English suprasegmentals by Brazilian Portuguese speakers. Previous studies indicate that the acquisition of target-like nuclear stress assignment is difficult for EFL learners (ZUBIZARRETA; NAVA, 2011). However, non-target-like nuclear stress assignment is likely to lead into communication breakdowns, making its mastering a priority for L2 learners. The participants were 69 L1 Brazilian Portuguese learners of English and 16 native English speakers. Sensitivity to L2 prosody was measured in a perception task which presented low-pass filtered utterances differing in nuclear stress assignment. The results showed that the L1 Brazilian Portuguese speakers possessed less awareness about English nuclear stress assignment than the native English speakers (F(1, 83) =55.95, p <.001, η2 =.40). Furthermore, awareness was affected by utterance type so that the only test category manifesting above chancelevel performance was deaccented sentences ending in function words (76%). In unaccusative (40%) and deaccented utterances ending in given information (52%), the performance was at or below chance-level. The findings suggest that L1 Brazilian Portuguese learners would benefit from explicit prosodic instruction even at advanced levels of proficiency.

Keywords: phonological awareness; prosody; pronunciation.

Resumo: O objetivo deste artigo foi examinar se os aprendizes brasileiros de inglês têm consciência sobre a alocação do acento nuclear de inglês, e se esta é afetada pelo tipo de sentença. Atualmente, poucos estudos têm sido conduzidos sobre a aquisição suprassegmental do inglês por falantes brasileiros. Os estudos prévios mostram que a aquisição de acento nuclear é difícil para aprendizes de inglês (ZUBIZARRETA; NAVA, 2011). No entanto, o uso adequado do acento nuclear deve ser uma prioridade para aprendizes de LE porque o seu uso inadequado leva a mal-entendidos. Os participantes foram 69 aprendizes brasileiros de inglês e 16 falantes nativos de inglês. A sensibilidade ao acento nuclear na LE foi medida num teste de percepção que apresentou sentenças com filtro passa-baixa que variavam nos padrões de entoação. Os resultados mostraram que os aprendizes brasileiros de inglês manifestavam uma sensibilidade mais baixa ao acento nuclear de inglês que os falantes nativos de inglês (F(1, 83) =55.95, p <.001, η2 =.40). Além do mais, a sensibilidade variava em função do tipo de sentença, de tal maneira que somente as orações que terminavam em categorias funcionais (76%) mostravam desempenho acima do nível estatisticamente esperado ao acaso. Nas orações inacusativas (40%) e desacentuadas terminadas em informação dada (52%), o desempenho estava abaixo ou no nível estatisticamente esperado ao acaso. Os resultados sugerem que instrução explícita sobre a prosódia de L2 seria benéfica inclusive aos aprendizes brasileiros de inglês com um nível avançado de proficiência.

Palavras-chave: consciência fonológica; prosódia; pronúncia.


Keywords


phonological awareness; prosody; pronunciation.

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References


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17851/2237-2083.25.2.483-514

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