When does intonational transfer occur? A comparative study of interrogative rises in four groups of L2 Japanese learners

Aaron Albin, Ruilai Wang


While studies of L2 intonation agree that cross-linguistic transfer is common, there is still no established way to predict which specific contrastive analysis predictions will (and will not) be substantiated. To collect more primary descriptive data along these lines, the present study compares 12 Tokyo Japanese native speakers to 70 L2 learners studying Japanese as a foreign language in terms of how they distinguish statements from questions – normally marked by the presence vs. absence of a final rise. Learners represented four typologically distinct L1 groups: Korean, Mandarin, Russian, and Vietnamese. Each speaker participated in a read-aloud task containing 12 verbs, each presented to learners in an alternating sequence of statements and questions, e.g. neru 'sleep' vs. neru? 'sleep?'. The resulting tokens were measured in terms of duration, F0 level, and F0 span, and cluster analyses were conducted to classify the F0 contours according to their shape. While learners differed systematically from native speakers in many ways (including with respect to lexical accent), many of the predicted cases of intonational transfer were either absent or only sporadically attested, highlighting the importance of non-transfer factors (such as developmental universals and interlanguage innovations) in explaining L2 intonation.


 DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-175

Cite as: Albin, A., Wang, R. (2020) When does intonational transfer occur? A comparative study of interrogative rises in four groups of L2 Japanese learners. Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020, 857-861, DOI: 10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-175.


@inproceedings{Albin2020,
  author={Aaron Albin and Ruilai Wang},
  title={{When does intonational transfer occur? A comparative study of interrogative rises in four groups of L2 Japanese learners}},
  year=2020,
  booktitle={Proc. 10th International Conference on Speech Prosody 2020},
  pages={857--861},
  doi={10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-175},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/SpeechProsody.2020-175}
}