Applied Linguistics Spring 2024 Colloquium

Event Date: 

Wednesday, May 22, 2024 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Event Location: 

  • Phelps Hall 4332
  • Talk

Please join us for our Applied Linguistics Spring Colloquium featuring our own student Sherry Chien, Ph.D Candidate (Dept. of Linguistics) and Meagan Carter (Department of Spanish and  Portuguese).

Learning L2 prosody: the Phonetic Realization of Focus in English by Taiwan Mandarin Speakers

Sherry Chien (Linguistics Department)

Prosody makes our speech natural and full of life, helping us highlight certain information while also chunking it into comprehensible phrases. Although its importance for successful communication is well-established, it is rarely mentioned in language teaching and learning. In this talk, I explore how prosodic dimensions of speech (e.g., temporal, tonal, and rhythmic properties) are acquired in a second language (L2) setting. In particular, I examine how speakers of Taiwan Mandarin, a syllable-timed tone language, mark focus via prosody in English, a stress-timed language in which pitch is used to mark phrase-level meanings instead of lexical meanings.

Two major lines of my research findings will be presented. The first focuses on how prosodic features of a speaker's first language (L1) can be transferable to their L2 speech, especially when learners come from a rhythmically distinct language background. The other line highlights findings that cannot be easily explained away by L1 transfer, but reflect more on the process of L2 learning itself. By exploring the interplay between language-specific L1 transfers and general developmental paths of L2 prosody, we can identify scientific dimensions that can better inform pedagogical approaches to teaching and learning prosody in a second language.

An Examination of Pauses and Segmentation in L2-L1 Translations of Condensed Fairy Tales

Meagan Carter (Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese)

The focus of the present study is to examine if exposure to violent content in source texts will produce an effect similar to or different from that produced by moments of textual ambiguity. For this investigation, violent content is defined as content that has to deal with topics such as murder, rape, suicide, and drugging. Textual ambiguity is defined as moments within the source text in which a piece of information, i.e. a referent or context, is missing and which is needed for the translator to produce an equivalent target text.  Fourteen students from the University of California, Santa Barbara participated in this study. Participants were asked to complete a series of four tasks: language history questionnaire, translations of three short texts, a retrospective think aloud protocol, and a diagnostic survey for PTSD.  Keystrokes were logged using Translog-II software and were analyzed for segmentation index, segmentation length, pause index, and pause duration. The texts were presented to the participants in increasing amounts of violent content and textual ambiguity. An ANOVA analysis of the data proved that among the participants, the only significant factor was segmentation length. The amount of violent content and textual ambiguity did not impact segmentation or pauses. Furthermore, a provisional diagnosis of PTSD was not a significant factor.