The perception and interpretation of sentence types by L1 Spanish–L2 English speakers
While the L2 perception of segmentals has been investigated, our knowledge of the L2 perception of intonation is limited. Moreover, it is unclear how context affects L1 transfer. This study investigates the perception of English sentence types by adult L1 Spanish speakers across tasks varying in contextual information. In Task 1, participants heard low-pass filtered utterances and identified them as statements, questions or exclamations. Task 2 was similar, but consisted of unaltered utterances. In Task 3, participants heard a scenario and three options (absolute question, declarative question, statement), and selected the best one. Accuracy and reaction times were measured. Learners had the most difficulty in Task 3, but were target-like in the others, confirming previous findings. Namely, L2 speakers perform better in tasks lacking contextual information versus contextualized ones. Thus, while learners maintain their auditory resolution to intonation cues in non-speech tasks, they cannot relate contours to appropriate L2 meanings.