We are happy to announce a talk by Katharina Zahner-Ritter (Trier University)
in the Phonology Colloquium.

Room: IG 4.301

Date: January 31, 2024

Time: 4 pm – 6 pm ct

Title: Accounting for the dynamics in the L2 acquisition of intonation: Cross-linguistic influence, proficiency, and individual variation


Learning a foreign language (L2) is a challenge for learners, especially when it comes to intonation and timing. Even advanced learners have been shown to differ from native (L1) speakers with respect to pitch accent placement or pitch accent type. Comparatively fewer studies have focused on the fine phonetic detail of intonational patterns in the L2, e.g., alignment, scaling, or the shape of contour. In the talk, I will present data from different experiments that focus on the dynamics in the L2 acquisition of fine phonetic detail. One study targets the acquisition of tonal alignment configurations in L2 German, testing learners of tone- and non-tone languages in an imitation paradigm. Another study concentrates on the phonetic realization of nuclear contours when little sonorant material is available (time pressure), testing Bulgarian learners in their L2s German and English – two languages in which intonation contours are accommodated differently in the L1. Based on these data, I will argue that cross-linguistic influence between the L1 and the target language may often account for the challenges that learners face, especially with regard to beginners. On the other hand, as I will show, L2 productions are subject to substantial inter- and intra-individual variation which cannot readily be explained by prosodic transfer or proficiency level. I will discuss implications that arise from these findings for L2 acquisition theory, as well as, from a more practical perspective, for language teaching.