Something borrowed, something new: acquiring unexploited sets of feature contrasts

Rikke L. Bundgaard-Nielsen, Brett J. Baker, Carmel O’Shannessy

Friday, December 16th, 2022, 2.15pm – 2.45pm


The present paper addresses the question of whether Second Language (L2) segmental acquisition can be successful if the learner’s Native Language (L1) does not implement an entire ‘tier’ of phonetic/articulatory information exploited in the L2. The results from a re-framed analysis of perceptual discrimination studies with speakers of three Indigenous Australian languages (Wubuy; Kriol; Light Warlpiri) indicate that this appears possible only when L2 learners can leverage phonetic aspects of their consonantal inventories to acquire some new featural contrasts, and that distributional information can act as a key to at least some new contrastive features. The results also indicate that voicing, especially in fricatives, appears particularly challenging.