L1 Shapes L2 Auditory Representation Elicited Imitation of Arabic-Speaking Learners of English

Rajaa Aquil


L1 interference plays a major role in second language acquisition, as evidenced by empirical studies (Kellerman & Sharwood Smith, 1986). The interference could result from a learner's conscious or unconscious judgment that some linguistic features in L1 and L2 are similar (Odlin, 1989), particularly in phonology (MacKain, Best, & Strange, 1981). This paper reports on two experiments using Elicited Imitation and Reading Tasks to investigate whether L1, Cairene Arabic prosodic strategy of epenthesis to break up consonant clusters is transferred to the participants' English output. Results of Experiment A showed that epenthesis took place more in reading than in repetition, as tested by the Elicited Imitation and Reading Tasks. Mimicking was suspected to be behind the results. To control for mimicking, a second experiment (Experiment B) was conducted following the same design, but with the addition of a familiarity task to ensure that the participants knew and understood the words of an utterance and did not just mimic them. Results of Experiment B showed that epenthesis instances were the same in repetition as in reading. Epenthesis of a vowel to break consonant clusters suggests that participants of the study reconstructed the utterances based not only on how English words are stored in their mental representation, but also on Cairene Arabic syllable structure rules. This study, through the usage of Elicited Imitation Task, is able to tap into L2 Arabic speaking learners’ auditory mental representation of L2 input and demonstrate the influence of L1 transfer.


Elicited imitation, L1 transfer, epenthesis, L2 listening, auditory mental representation

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.7575/ijalel.v.1n.1p.39


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