Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Acquisition of /s/ by Second Language Learners of Spanish


Modern Languages & Literatures


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range



Few studies have considered the acquisition of Spanish phonological processes. The present study extends our understanding of the acquisition of phonological processes by exploring how L2 learners of Spanish produce Spanish /s/, a phone which undergoes regressive voice assimilation. Spanish /s/ has generally understood to undergo regressive voice assimilation before a voiced consonant. In English this process occurs only in some words and in the opposite direction, depending upon the preceding segment as opposed to the following. Schmidt (2008), the only study to date to investigate the acquisition of this particular phonological process in Spanish, reported that less than one-fourth of advanced undergraduate students of Spanish produced the native-like target, [z]. These findings do not indicate how this process develops and/or changes over time. The current study addresses this issue by including four learner groups. A total of 70 native English-speaking L2 learners of Spanish participated in this study in addition to 10 native speakers. All participants were recorded reading aloud an authentic short story. The percentage of sibilant voicing was measured acoustically and analyzed according to learner level, position in the word, orthography (c, s, z), and cognate status. Preliminary analysis reveals that the participants produce /s/ with low levels of voicing. Tokens for which [z] is anticipated are produced with greater percentages of voicing than tokens for which [s] is expected. Orthography does not appear to effect voicing of /s/ for any learner group. With respect to development over time, the percentage of target-like productions increases.

Conference Name

Current Approaches to Spanish and Portuguese Second Language Phonology

Conference Location

Columbia, SC

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