Production of final boundary tones in declarative utterances by English-speaking learners of Spanish

Germán Zárate-Sández


Given differences in the intonational contours between Spanish and English in unmarked declarative utterances, the present study sought to determine how English-speaking learners of Spanish produce final boundary tones and how proficiency interacts with their performance. Participants were American college students learning Spanish at three proficiency levels: intermediate (n=17), high (n=20), and very high (n=18). In addition, groups of monolingual speakers of Spanish (n=17), English (n=17), and balanced English-Spanish bilinguals (n=16) were included for comparison. A storytelling task was used to elicit quasispontaneous speech. Syntactic, auditory, and acoustic criteria were employed to select eight analyzable utterances for each participant. End pitch values were automatically extracted, converted to ERB units, and averaged to produce one aggregate score per participant. Results revealed monolingual speakers of English had the highest boundary tone values, while speakers of Spanish had the lowest, which is consistent with the existence of high rising terminals (or uptalk) in American English. Scores for Spanish learners and bilingual speakers fell in the middle of the pitch scaling range. Intermediate learners clustered with English monolinguals, while scores for the high and very high proficiency learners were not statistically different among themselves or from other groups. Findings showed that, despite differences between English and Spanish, learners can reach native-like performance at a high proficiency level.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-187

Cite as: Zárate-Sández, G. (2018) Production of final boundary tones in declarative utterances by English-speaking learners of Spanish. Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018, 927-931, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-187.


@inproceedings{Zárate-Sández2018,
  author={Germán Zárate-Sández},
  title={Production of final boundary tones in declarative utterances by English-speaking learners of Spanish},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. 9th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2018},
  pages={927--931},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-187},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2018-187}
}