Date of Award

8-1-2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Crow, Bryan

Abstract

This study aims to examine the developmental acquisition trends of English nasal /ŋ/ by Saudi learners of English. According to the previous literature, the velar nasal /ŋ/ presents significant difficulties for learners of English, especially for Arabic speakers. The literature indicates that their most serious problem lies in their tendency to insert a stop after the velar nasal, such as singing /sɪŋɪŋ/ pronounced as [sɪŋgɪŋg]. Accordingly, this study aims to examine this claim by studying Saudi learners of English as a second language to find the types of committed errors, and the effects of length of residence and language use in diminishing such tendencies. For this purpose, participants representing two ranges of length of residence in the US (LOR < 1 year and LOR >4 years) were recruited. The instruments included both a demographic questionnaire and a production task. A list of English words ending with the velar nasal preceded by different vowels was given. Data analysis made use of speech analyzer, descriptive statistics, frequency analyses, and an independent t-test to see if there are significant developmental trends in the acquisition of the target sound. The findings of this study provide empirical evidence in support of some of the most well-known theories in second language acquisition, namely, Contrastive Analysis hypothesis (Lado, 1957), Markedness Differential Hypothesis (Eckman, 1977), and Language Transfer Theory (Odlin, 1986; Gass & Selinker 1994). The absence of the marked velar nasal in coda position and the phonological rules of its use in the marked coda position caused many types of serious mispronunciations in Saudis' oral production of English words that end in such a segment. Resulting types of errors stem from the negative transfer of the allophonic environment of the velar nasal in Arabic language. Such transfer decreases as the length of residence and L2 use increase.

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