Acquiring the Phonetics and Phonology of English Word Stress: Comparing Learners from Different L1 Backgrounds

Rana Almbark, Nadia Bouchhioua, Sam Hellmuth

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


This paper explores the acquisition of phonetic and phonological realisation of word stress, by Arabic speaking second language learners of English, in a small production study. Spoken Arabic dialects differ from each other in the phonology of stress, and the phonetic realisation of stress may also vary across dialects. In the present study the English speech productions of learners from two Arabic dialectal backgrounds (Cairo and Amman) is compared to permit disambiguation between L1 transfer and ‘learner intonation’ as the source of any non‐native‐like patterns in the phonological and/or phonetic realisation of stress. Phonetic realisation is investigated by means of quantitative acoustic analysis of read speech experimental data, with comparison to L1 Arabic and native English speaker control data. Phonological realisation is investigated by means of auditory qualitative analysis of read speech narrative data. No differences are found in the phonetic realisation of stress between the two Arabic dialects under consideration, however differences are found between the realisation of stress in Arabic as compared to English. In the L2 English production data, the results show a clear pattern of L1 transfer in the phonetic realisation of stress, in particular in lack of vowel reduction in unstressed syllables; this contrasts with minimal errors in word‐stress placement. The implications of the findings of the study for future research are briefly explored.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Specialist publicationConcordia Working Papers in Applied Linguistics
PublisherDepartment of Education, Concordia University
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


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