Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Hispanic Studies


Rafat, Yasaman


Whereas the acquisition of Spanish lexical stress by English-speaking learners has received some attention (Face, 2003; Lord, 2001; 2004; Marasco, Steele, Sunara, & Colantoni, 2012), very little is known about the perception of Spanish lexical stress by Japanese-speaking learners (Atria, Kimura, Sensui, Takasawa & Toyomaru, 2012). Specifically, little is known about the perception of Spanish lexical stress in interrogative and exclamative sentences by Japanese-speaking learners. The language pairing is novel and lends itself well to the study of perception of stress because whereas Spanish is a stress-accent language, Japanese is a pitch-accent language, where stress is acoustically realized differently in each language.

This study has three goals. First, it seeks to make an empirical and a theoretical contribution to the field of second language phonology by examining the perception of Spanish lexical stress by advanced Japanese-speaking learners of Spanish. In particular, it aims to examine and compare the perception of paroxytone (limite; he limits) and proparotytone (límite; limit) words in sentence-final and non-final position of both yes/no questions and exclamations. Subsequently, it will determine, how the L1 (first language) Japanese prosodic system may interact with the variation in the realization of F0 peak displacement in the latter contexts in Spanish. The study also examines the effect of context of learning as well as type of words.

The participants consisted of 45 advanced Japanese-speaking late learners of Spanish (20 in Bogotá and 25 in Japan). Their ages varied between 22 and 50 years old. The control group consisted of 20 native Spanish speakers of Bogotá Spanish. The three groups were required to participate in a stress identification task. Nine sets of 3 syllable accentual minimal triplets with each having an oxytone (e.g., nabidó), a paroxytone (e.g., nabido) and a proparoxytone (e.g., nábido) were used. The participants listened to the target words in five different contexts: isolation (e.g., medico), final position of yes/no questions (e.g., ¿él dijo límite?), final position in exclamations (e.g., ¡él dijo válido!), non-final position of yes/no questions (e.g., ¿él dijo medicó ayer?), and non-final position of exclamations (e.g., ¡él dijo medico ayer!).

Results show that learners have difficulty perceiving the Spanish lexical stress, indicating that the interaction of the Japanese and Spanish prosodic systems lead to the misperception of lexical stress. The recorded stimuli produced by a native speaker of Bogota Spanish are analyzed acoustically and the variation in F0 peak displacement in different prosodic contexts is discussed as a potential factor for miscuing the learners. Moreover, results show an advantage for the Bogota L2 (second language) group, who had been immersed in Colombia in comparison with the Japan L2 group, who had received classroom instruction in Japan. Furthermore, there was no effect of type of word (i.e., real vs, nonce word). The study has implications for models of L2 speech learning as well as pedagogical implications.