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Title: The acquisition of non-rhoticity in musical and non-musical advanced Polish students of English
Authors: Malarski, Kamil
Jekiel, Mateusz
Keywords: non-rhoticity
Polish learners of English
language acquisition
musical aptitude
Issue Date: 2-Dec-2016
Citation: Accents 2016, 10th International Conference on Native and Non-native Accents of English, Łódź, 02.12.2016
Abstract: Polish is a rhotic language. Therefore, in the process of learning General British (Cruttenden 2014) pronunciation, Polish students find it difficult not to produce non-prevocalic /r/s. The following study aims at assessing to what extent musical hearing is helpful in acquiring non-rhoticity among Polish advanced students of English. So far, it has been shown that music has an effect on language in many domains, such as neurolinguistics (Zatorre et al. 2002, Patel et al. 2008), L1 acquisition (Wermke and Mende 2009, Brandt et al. 2012) and L2 acquisition (Lee and Hung 2008). Moreover, the findings in Pastuszek-Lipińska (2008) point to musical hearing as a predisposition for effective speech imitation. Based on these assumptions, we hypothesize that musical hearing has an effect on how fast students of English adapt to non-rhotic pronunciation. Our subjects are 36 Polish speakers (18 female, 18 male) studying English as their major at 1BA level. They took part in two recording sessions, i.e. before and after a two-semester intensive accent training course they have to complete as part of their curriculum, where they are taught the General British pronunciation model. The stimulus comprised of 1) a reading passage, 2) a set of dialogues eliciting rhoticity/non-rhoticity and 3) a wordlist eliciting START and NORTH vowels before non-prevocalic /r/. Next, the participants took part in a musical hearing test, measuring pitch perception, musical memory and rhythm perception. Finally, the speakers were also asked to complete an online survey regarding their listening to music habits and musical experiences (i.e. playing musical instruments, singing, attending music lessons, etc.). The preliminary analysis shows that across all speakers over 60% of all variants were pronounced as rhotic in the first recording session. With time, all our participants improved and produced fewer rhotic variants. It seems that students with better musical hearing had better results for non-rhoticity in both recording sessions. The results suggest that learners with a better musical ear are able to acquire non-rhoticity at an earlier stage.
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