Edited by Jorrig Vogels and Sterre Leufkens
[Linguistics in the Netherlands 39] 2022
► pp. 284–299
The role of word frequency in the L2 acquisition of variable patterns
A case study of the pronunciation of English words with –man by Chinese learners
Second language acquisition often involves the acquisition of stable patterns in a target language. Here we investigate how the acquisition of a variable pronunciation pattern, viz. the pronunciation of the semisuffix man in professional names in English (e.g. policeman, businessman) is related to the lexical frequency of the words concerned. The pronunciation of this suffix varies between a full vowel and a reduced one in a lexically unpredictable manner (i.e. some words with -man tend to have schwa, others a full vowel, and still others vary between the two). To test how the pronunciation of such words is acquired in a second language, we carried out a picture naming experiment in which Chinese subjects were asked to pronounce them. The results show that the pronunciation of this semisuffix is especially related to the educational status of subjects (major vs. non-major).
- 4.Discussion and conclusion