Learning L2 Rhythm: Does the direction of acquisition matter?

Lieke van Maastricht, Emiel Krahmer, Marc Swerts, Pilar Prieto

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This study investigates the acquisition of second language (L2) rhythm by speakers of Dutch and Spanish, two languages that traditionally are considered to be rhythmically different. Specifically, it investigates whether the direction in which the L2 is learned (from Dutch to Spanish, or vice versa) influences the ease of acquisition. Dutch has relatively complex syllable structure and uses extensive final and accentual lengthening, while Spanish has a less complex syllable structure and uses less accentual and final lengthening. Consequently, Dutch and Spanish lie at opposite ends of the rhythm continuum. Eckman’s Markedness Differential Hypothesis (MDH) predicts that Dutch rhythm is more marked, and therefore more difficult to acquire for SLD, than Spanish rhythm is for DLS. When comparing accentual and final lengthening data by L2 learners with a low (A2) and high (B2) proficiency level in both learning directions, it is therefore expected that the DLS will advance more towards their respective target native speaker control group than SLD. Our results, however contradict the MDH, as they show that SLD outperform the DLS for both measures.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016
EventSpeech Prosody 2016 - Boston University , Boston, United States
Duration: 31 May 20165 Aug 2016


ConferenceSpeech Prosody 2016
Country/TerritoryUnited States


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