5. Speech Learning Model (Flege, 1995)

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Thesis
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In order for successive bilinguals to attain native-like performance, the learning of L2 phonology might impose a stricter and earlier time constraint compared to that of lexicon or grammar.
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Speech Learning Model by Flege (1995)
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L2 learners establish new phonetic categories according to their similarity to already existing L1 categories –> it is easier to establish new categories for sounds that are completely unrelated
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Ayoma et al. (2004): purpose
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show that it is very difficult to establish new phonetic categories in L2 and that children are better than adults
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Ayoma et al. (2004): experiment
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Japanese children and Japanese adults have to produce /r/ and /l/ sounds and are judged by native speakers of English
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Ayoma et al. (2004): results
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– both children and adults do worse on the /l/ than on the /r/ sounds – after 1 year, children have improved significantly, adults only slightly – children have improved more on the /r/ than on the /l/ sounds
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Ayoma et al. (2004): conclusions
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– it is easier to establish new categories for sounds that are more different – children are better at establishing new categories
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Achilla-Suerte et al. (2012): purpose
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show that A0A for native-like pronunciation is much stricter and earlier than for native-like grammar or lexicon
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Achilla-Suerte et al. (2012): experiment
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three different age groups – early (3.6) – intermediate (6.9) – late (14.5) similarity judgment task on English vowels that are not distinguished in their L1
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Achilla-Suerte et al. (2012): results
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only the early group (3.6) performed like native speakers!
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Achilla-Suerte et al. (2012): conclusions
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– general evidence for a critical period, but much earlier than Lenneberg or Johnson & Newport – inconsistent with studies on early infants: language-general perception in monolingual babies becomes language-specific after age 1 – considerable plasticity for learning in early childhood

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