Processing Indexical and Dialectal Variation in a Second Language

  • Franziska Kruger (Indiana University)


To improve second-language (L2) learners’ listening skills, it has been suggested to enhance classroom-input with variation (e.g. more speaker voices, different dialects) to simulate a realistic linguistic landscape in the classroom. However, previous studies reported that L2-learners struggle to distinguish dialects and voices, even at advanced levels. This study explored L2-classroom learners’ ability to group words based on indexical variation (speaker voice and dialect). Twenty-seven learners of German (14 beginners, 13 intermediates) and five native speakers classified thirty tokens based on their perceived similarity of voice and dialect in a free classification task. All participants distinguished the stimuli to some degree, but classification accuracy for beginners was significantly less accurate than for native speakers. Intermediates presented with large variation, but accuracy did not differ significantly from native speakers. All groups relied on the same acoustic cues, but their perceptual spaces reveal that NS were more successful than both learner groups at using those cues to differentiate tokens. The findings suggest that L2-classroom learners process indexical variation less efficiently and that word-familiarity might influence their performance. Increasing input variability in classrooms without taking these observations into account could make listening tasks more difficult and hinder learning- and listening-skill development.

How to Cite:

Kruger, F., (2017) “Processing Indexical and Dialectal Variation in a Second Language”, Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Proceedings 9(1).

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Published on
31 Dec 2017