Date of Award

5-1-2012

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Baertsch, Karen

Abstract

This thesis investigated the realization of the English voiceless post-alveolar affricate and the voiceless post-alveolar fricative in native Panamanian speakers learning English as a second language. The Spanish of Panama has a typical deaffrication process where the post-alveolar affricate phoneme is mostly pronounced as a fricative; as a result, the Spanish affricate has two allophones, the voiceless post-alveolar affricate and the voiceless post-alveolar fricative that occur in free variation in the Spanish of Panama. The word positions tested were word initially and finally only. Thus, the purpose of the study was to determine the dominant sound in the Spanish of Panama, to identify dialectal allophonic transfer from the Spanish of Panama, and to verify the accomplishment of the phonemic split in English through the frequency of usage of the target sounds. Subsequently, in order to exemplify the deaffrication phonological process of Panama, I developed and discussed a Feature Geometry of the Spanish language along with the Underspecified consonants of the Spanish language. In addition, I tested three main theories about acquisition of contrastive target sounds, Markedness, and similarity and dissimilarity of sounds. The results showed that these Panamanian learners of English produced the English voiceless post-alveolar fricative significantly more target appropriately than the English voiceless post-alveolar affricate. This indicates that the dominant sound in the Spanish of Panama is the dialectal allophone, the voiceless post-alveolar fricative, which I suggest may become the default post-alveolar phoneme in the Spanish of Panama. Subsequently, the high frequency of the voiceless post-alveolar fricative also indicates that the participants transferred their Panamanian Spanish dialectal allophone, the voiceless post-alveolar fricative, into English and more importantly, they have not reached the phonemic split for these two English target sounds. Taking the dialectal allophone, the voiceless post-alveolar fricative, as the default post-alveolar phoneme in the Spanish of Panama, The Markedness Differential Hypothesis (Eckman, 1977) accounts for the observed trends described as follows: the learning of the less marked sound (English voiceless post-alveolar fricative) was easier to acquire and the learning of the more marked sound (English voiceless post-alveolar affricate) was difficult to acquire.

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