- Restrictions on Access:
- Open Access.
- The number of English Language Learners (ELLs) in the United States continues to grow rapidly, almost too fast for educators and professionals to appropriately guide them to the academic services and support they require, including in language learning. As a result, challenges arise in appropriate assessment and diagnostic measures and can lead to a risk of misdiagnosis of language disorders. One way to help reduce this risk of misdiagnosis is through cultural-linguistic awareness of the dialectal differences and language variation that exists in the childs first language. The current study examines adults processing of variable and consistent number-marking with implications in diagnosis, treatment and intervention strategies for ELLs.To explore this question, we looked at listeners online processing of singular and plural noun phrases in Andalusian Spanish. In many varieties of Spanish, syllable-final /s/, including the plural affix, is variably lenited, meaning that the plural is sometimes marked by an alveolar fricative [s], an aspiration [h], or is omitted. Even when /s/ is omitted, the vowel laxing associated with closed syllables remains, providing a potential auditory cue to the omitted consonant. The frequency of each form varies depending on linguistic (following phoneme, morphological status) and extra-linguistic factors (speaker SES, age, speech register). In Spanish, nouns agree in number with other elements in the determiner phrase (e.g. determiners, adjectives). This and the properties of /s/ lenition mean that there are a variety of morpho-phonological cues listeners may use to determine that a given noun phrase is plural. In addition to the variably produced plural marker, potential cues include the forms of masculine (but not feminine) plural and singular definite determiners, and laxing of the final -o in masculine plurals (but not -a in feminine plurals, as [a] has no lax counterpart). If participants are better able to take advantage of more consistent, more salient plural markers, they should recognize masculine plurals and fully-produced forms more quickly and reliably than feminine plurals and lenited forms. Forty-two native speakers of Andalusian Spanish from the University of Granada participated in a visual world task. On each trial they saw four pictures (e.g., 1 dog, 3 dogs, 1 pepper, 3 peppers) and heard a prompt to select one of the images (e.g., Pincha en lo(s) perro(s), Click on the.PL dog.PL). Participants heard 96 trials, evenly divided among the combinations of target plurality (singular/plural), target gender (masc/fem), and determiner (definite/otro other). Half of the participants heard plurals with fully pronounced /s/ and half heard dialect-appropriate lenition. Sentences were recorded by a speaker native to Granada. Results show that participants readily used the available cues to plurality: as they heard the determiner and noun they singled out the target image. Participants looked reliably more to the plural image in plural than in singular trials (definite and otro trials, ps < .0001). However, there was no reliable main effect of target gender or condition, nor were there reliable interactions between factors. These findings demonstrate that listeners readily use cues that are highly variable in their everyday experience in online comprehension, and that despite differences in cue saliency and consistency, they do so to similar degrees. This raises interesting questions about the nature of variable-cue processing and representation: To what extent is the ability to accurately and rapidly use sociolinguistically variable cues in comprehension honed by long familiarity with a dialect, and to what extent is it something a speaker of another dialect could acquire over short exposure? How do learners determine that these different cues all map to plurality? The current evidence provides a solid foundation for exploring these and related questions to also help professionals develop linguistically-sensitive assessment, diagnostic and internvention measures for ELLs.
- Dissertation Note:
- B.S. Pennsylvania State University, 2017.
- Technical Details:
- The full text of the dissertation is available as an Adobe Acrobat .pdf file ; Adobe Acrobat Reader required to view the file.
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