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Eger, Nikola Anna; Mitterer, Holger and Reinisch, Eva (2019): Learning a new sound pair in a second language: Italian learners and German glottal consonants. In: Journal of Phonetics, Vol. 77, 100917

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The present study investigated Italian learners' production and perception of German /h/ and /?/ - two sounds that lack obvious linguistic counterparts in Italian. Critically, of these sounds only /h/ is explicitly known to learners from instruction and orthography. We therefore asked whether this awareness would lead to better acquisition of /h/ than /?/, and whether any differences would depend on the explicitness of the task. In production, learners of a medium proficiency level performed accurately in about 70% of the cases, with errors including sound deletions and substitutions. In spoken word recognition, two other learner groups of the same proficiency were hindered by sound deletions, but not by substitutions, although they were able to differentiate the sounds in an explicit goodness rating task. Overall, acquisition of /?/ was similar to /h/, despite lack of awareness for this sound. The results suggest that learners have established one combined "glottal category" to which both sounds map in speech processing, while they may be better implemented in production. (C) 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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