Difference in L1 and L2 speakers’ realizations of Swedish phonological length.
Swedish has a trading temporal relation between the vowel and consonant in stressed syllables (in either form of /V:C/ or /VC:/), which makes all stressed syllables long. Displaying this stress feature correctly can be one important condition for L2 speakers of Swedish to be well understood (Abelin & Thorén 2015), since duration is the major perceptual cue for stress (Fant & Kruckenberg, 1994). The paper presents a study that examined whether there is a difference between the pronunciations of L1 and L2 Swedish speakers, in terms of the duration ratio between the phonologically long segment and the whole word. It was predicted that at least the minimum value of the variation would be greater among L1 speakers than L2 speakers. Sixty-two L2 speakers and thirty-two L1 speakers were recorded when pronouncing three Swedish words with /VC:/ quantity. The data included reading aloud by the L2-speakers and reading aloud in normal, solemn and poetic style by the L1-speakers. While the L2 speakers spoke each word once, some of the L1 speakers did plural times, producing fifty different versions. The relative duration of the phonologically long sound is a measure suggested here to be relevant for both stress and quantity realization. Although preliminary, the results confirmed the prediction: the native Swedish speakers have higher mean value for ratios than non-native speakers, and the both minimum and maximum values for L1-speakers are higher than the corresponding values for L2-speakers. This value distribution indicates that L1 Swedish speakers pronounce longer stressed syllables than L2-speakers do, when measured against the duration of the whole word. Based on the findings, the study suggests that duration exaggeration of phonologically long segments can be used when teaching pronunciation to L2 learners of Swedish, raising their awareness of both stress and quantity distinctions.
Abelin, Å. & Thorén, B. (2015) What affects recognition most – wrong word stress or wrong word accent? Proceedings of Fonetik 2015, Working papers in General Linguistics and Phonetics, Lund, 7–10. ISSN: 0280-526X
Fant, G. & Kruckenberg, A. (1994) Notes on stress and word accent in Swedish STL-QPSR 2-3/1994, 125-144