L2 phonetics research | conference proceedings

Recent conference presentations
Flege, J. (2012). The role of input in second language speech learning. VIth International Conference on
Native and Non-native accent of English. Lodz, Poland  6-8 December 2012.

Note: This is a slightly edited version of the keynote I  presented at New Sounds 2010. The aim of the talk
was to consider four hypotheses regarding age-related effects on L2 speech acquisition. A lot of territory
is covered here. However, I call your attention especially to the discussion of why the Johnson & Newport
(1987) study does not provide convincing evidence in support of a "maturational" account of age effect on
L2 learning. I've replotted some data from our JML article (Flege et al. 1999). The study tested the critical
period hypothesis by examining 240 Korean immigrants to the US. Several factors other than the age of
L2 learning, including education in the US and amount of English use, might well account for most of the
variance in the two outcome variables (foreign accent ratings, morphosyntax scores). Interestingly, the
cross-over from Korean-dominant to English dominant occured at an AOA of 12 years.
Flege, J.E. (2016). The role of phonetic category formation in second language speech acquisition.
Eight International Conference on Second Language Speech, 10-12 June, 2016, Aarhus University,
Denmark.

Abstract: In 1995, after 15 years of preliminary work, I formally presented the Speech Learning Mode. A
key aspect of this L2 speech acquisition model was the hypothesis is that learners of any age, even late
learners, retain the capacities used in successful L1 speech learning, including the capacity to create
new phonetic categories for certain L2 sounds. In the first part of this talk I describe the both general and
specific properties of phonetic categories, referred to as "containers" in which learners store and
structure information in long term memory pertinent to classes of speech sounds. Then I present studies
providing evidence for the formation of phonetic categories for English /p/, by native speakers of Spanish;
for English
/ɝ/, by native speakers of Italian; and for English /r/, by native speakers of Japanese. I
conclude the talk with a brief summary, indicating what it is that we still don't know about L2 category
formation, and identifying obstacles to complete understanding of this crucial aspect of L2 speech
learning.
Flege, J.E. (2017). Imparare la pronuncia di una lingua straniera: Possiamo farlo anche noi anziani?
Circolo Culturale «Enrico Pocci»  Via G. Verdi, 7  Tuscania (VT)
Flege, J. E. (2017). The cross-language acquisition of stops differing in VOT: Part 1, historical overview.
Phonetic Teaching and Learning Conference 2017, University College London. 9-12 August, 2017.

Abstract. Much L2 research has focused on the Voice onset time (VOT) dimension in word-initial stop
consonants. Interest in the VOT dimension arises from the fact that languages differ in terms of how VOT
is used to distinguish phonemes (e.g., /b/ vs /p/) and to the fact that the VOT dimension provides a useful
bridge between production and perception. Other considerations are that it is easy to measure VOT and
to create perceptual continua consisting of stimuli that differ in VOT. Alas, it is also possible to make
errors when using VOT to evaluate segmental production and perception.

This talk reviews the VOT dimension from the perspective of cross language differences, inter-lingual
identification, phonetic theory, L1 acquisition and L2 learning. A proposal deriving from the L1 acquisition
research is that learners of an L2 may need as much as 10 years of native speaker input to produce and
perceive L2 stops accurately. The discussion of phonetic organization focuses on the nature of phonetic
categories and the language-specific realization rules used to motorically output the phonetic categories
in speech production. Also included is a consideration of individual differences and a review of studies
examining the capacity of adults to learn to use VOT differently when learning an L2.
Flege, J. E.(2017). The cross-language acquisition of stops differing in VOT: Part 2, key findings.
Phonetic Teaching and Learning Conference 2017, University College London. 9-12 August, 2017.

This review of the literature led to the following conclusions regarding the production and perception of
word-initial consonants by native speakers of Romance languages who learn English as an L2: 1)
Learning to perceive and produce the VOT dimension in word-initial stops depends more importantly on
the phonetic input received than on age of first exposure to an L2; 2) Learners of all ages retain the
speech-learning capacities available to children who learn an L1, including the capacity to make effective
of use of input and establish new phonetic categories and phonetic realization rules; 3) For native
speakers of Romance languages, learning of English /b d g/ and /p t k/ proceed differently due to
differing patterns of perceived cross-language phonetic differences; 4) Native speakers of Romance
languages do not establish new phonetic categories for English /b d g/. Instead, they restructure their L1
phonetic categories for use in two languages on the basis of the input they have received; 5) On the
other hand, native speakers of Romance languages who receive adequate phonetic input can and do do
establish new phonetic categories for English /p t k/; 6) The formation of new phonetic categories for the
long-lag /p t k/ tokens of English does not cause native Romance learners of English to “lose” their
previously established L1 phonetic categories for /p t k/. As a result, they have three categories for stops
consonants produced at three places of articulation (pre-voiced, short-lag, long-lag) not just two as is
the case for monolingual speakers of English (long-lag and either lead or short-lag) and Romance
languages (pre-voiced and short-lag). 7) The bilinguals who begin to produce L1 /b d g/ with short-lag
VOT values as the result of long-term exposure to such stops in the English slightly increase VOT in L1
/p t k/ in order to avoid producing L1 /b d g/ and /p t k/ with the same short-lag VOT values. This kind of
"phonetic system" pressure in bilingualism appears to resemble that seen in historical sound change.
Flege, J.E. (2017) The role of input in the acquisition of L2 stops. SICSS 2017: 2017 Seoul International
Conference on Speech Sciences,  10–11 November 2017, Seoul National University, Korea

Abstract. This talk examines the role of input in the perception and production of L2 stop consonants,
focusing on The results convinced me that input is a far more important determinant of success in L2
speech learning than the age at which L2 learning begins. Many believe that native vs. non-native
differences are often due This talk examines the role of input in the perception and production of L2 stop
consonants, focusing on to differences in age of L2 learning (AOL). Immigrants' AOA is more important in
our research because it This talk examines the role of input in the perception and production of L2 stop
consonants, focusing on the VOT dimension. I review results obtained in research with native Italian
learners of English in Canada. the VOT dimension. I review results obtained in research with native Italian
learners of English in Canada. The results convinced me that input is a far more important determinant of
success in L2 speech learning than the age at which L2 learning begins. Many believe that native vs. non-
native differences are often due to differences in age of L2 learning (AOL). Immigrants' AOA is more
important in our research because it conditions the kind of experience our participants had with English,
defining both the quantity and quality of input they received over the course of their lives.
Flege, J.E. (2018). The Critical Period Hypothesis fails to predict L2 foreign accent and segmental
production accuracy. Research Frontiers of Second Language Speech, April 14-15 2018, Nanjing
University of Science and Technology, China.

Lenneberg (1967) was correct in saying that most people who begin learning an L2 after puberty usually
not conform well to detailed analyses of FA. First, individuals who learned their L2 as young children and
grows tends to grow increasing strong after the closure of the hypothesized critical period. Further, the
grows tends to grow increasing strong after the closure of the hypothesized critical period. Further, the
focus on L2 learning that has been promoted by widespread acceptance of the CPH has diverted attention
away from a a very important aspect of FA, that is, the presence of an L2 inspired FA in the native
language of bilinguals. A consideration of segmental production and perception by L2 learners casts
further doubt on the validity of the CPH. Individuals who learned the L2 as young children differ significantly
from native speakers of the target L2. In some cases adults who began learning the L2 at the ages of 8
and 20 ages perform the same in the L2. Taken as a whole, the results of phonetically oriented research
has not supported the CPH, and so I propose that it be rejected.
Flege, J. E. (2018). How the revised Speech Learning Model (SLM-r) works for stops consonants.
Research Frontiers of Second Language Speech, April 14-15 2018, Nanjing University of Science and
Technology, China.

Abstract. In this talk I review research examining the production and perception of word-initial stops by
speakers of two Romance languages, Spanish and Italian. In an aspiration language like English, the
phonetic basis of voiced-voiceless distinctions is the presence vs absence of aspiration following release
while in Romance languages it is the presence vs absence of glottal pulsing prior to release of word-initial
stops. Different tasks face L1 Romance learners of English  for voiced and voiceless stops. The task for /p
t k/ is to establish new “long lag” phonetic categories. As predicted by the SLM-r, the L2 learners
examined manage to do so if they obtained a sufficient amount of native speaker input. The learning task
for /b d g/. is different. In English these stops can realized with lead or short-lag VOT values. L1 Romance
learners cannot create new “short lag” phonetic categories for them because this portion of the phonetic
space (shared across languages) is already occupied by short-lag realizations of L1 /p t k/. It would be
easy for Romance L1 learners to simply continue producing English /b d g/ with full pre-voicing. After all,
some native speakers of English do so. However, as predicted by the SLM-r, Romance L1 learners of
English L2 begin showing the English pattern, producing: full pre-voicing, prevoicing that ends before
release, and short-lag VOT. Also as predicted by the SLM-r, the mix depends on the input they have
received, and effects of the (seemingly unnecessary) learning that has occurred in English is carried back
into the L1.
Flege, J. E. (2018)  L2 speech learning: Time to change the paradigm. Center for Research on Bilingualism,
Stockholm University, June 11, 2018

Abstract. The critical period hypothesis (CPH) has exerted a strong influence on L2 speech research ever
since Eric Lenneberg (1967) observed that people who learn an L2 after puberty usually speak it with a
foreign accent. His observation was largely correct, but research going beyond a superficial level of
observation yields findings that are incompatible with the CPH. Importantly, the CPH also fails to predict an
important phenomenon regarding foreign accent: an influence of the L2 on how bilinguals pronounce their
native language. Evidence regarding segmental-level production and perception also poses serious
challenges for the CPH.

The primary problem is not that the CPH is wrong but that its widespread appeal has discouraged the
search for better, falsifiable explanations of age-related effects on L2 speech learning. The talk concludes
with a presentation of a method that might be used to obtain, for the first time, the crucial predictor  variable
that has been missing from L2 research: estimates of the quantity and quality of input received by L2
learners.

Keywords: critical period hypothesis, Lenneberg, L2, speech, speech learning, foreign accent, confounds,
input, quantity of input, quality of input, Italians, Koreans, Experience Sampling Method, LOR, length of
residence, foreign-accented input
Summary: The results reported here are inconsistent with the view that native Japanese (NJ) adults'
difficulty producing and perceiving English liquids is due to the passing of a critical period or to the filtering
out of phonetic information needed to define English /r/ and to distinguish the English /r/ from English /l/. The
results are, however, readily understandable within the framework of the Speech Learning Model.

NJ speakers who are first exposed to English as children (Early learners) are generally more successful in
producing and perceiving English liquids than are NJ speakers whose first everyday exposure to English
occurs in adulthood (Late learners). This is because Early learners generally get more and better input from
native speakers of English than Late learners do..

Both Early and Late learners are more successful at perceiving English /r/ than /l/ English because /r/ is
perceptually more distant from the one liquid of Japanese (/R/) than English /l/ is.

NJ speakers, even Late learners, manage to establish new phonetic categories for English /r/ if they get
abundant native speaker input. Their progress for English /l/ is limited, however, because the phonetic
properties of this sound are merged with the properties of Japanese /R/. Regardless of exposure age,
Japanese-English bilinguals use a composite /R/-/l/ category when processing both the /R/ of their L1 and
the /l/ of their L2.
Flege, J. E. (2018). The Speech Learning Model (SLM) account of how Japanese speakers learn English /r/
and /l/. Sophia University, Tokyo, July 21, 2018.
Flege, J. E. (2018). The CPH fails to predict foreign accent and segmental
accuracy.  Sophia University, Tokyo, July 22, 2018.

Summary.. The critical period hypothesis (CPH) drawn from Lenneberg’s 1967
book continues to be accepted as the best explanation for age-related effects in
L2 speech research. However, the CPH generates incorrect predictions regarding
overall degree of foreign accent; segmental production and segmental perception.
In my view, input is the single most important predictor of success in L2 speech
learning. The problem we face, however, is that our measurements of quantity
and quality of L2 input are inadequate. The input hypothesis cannot be properly
evaluated (accepted or rejected) until we begin assessing input more precisely

Keywords:  L2, speech learning, foreign accent, FA, strength, vowels,
consonants, production, perception, Italian, immigrants, perception, production,
Lenneberg, critical period, CPH, maturation, maturational state, error detection,
discrimination.
Research
For conference presentations before 2011
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Flege, J.E. (2017) The cross-language acquisition of stops differing in VOT: Historical overview. SICSS
2017: 2017 Seoul International Conference on Speech Sciences,  10–11 November 2017, Seoul National
University, Korea