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Auteur: Sandra SCHWAB

Co-Auteur(s): Maria Angeles Barquero, Françoise Zay & Isabelle Racine

French accentuation in advanced Spanish learners of French

Abstract/Résumé: In view of the accentual differences between French and Spanish –fixed vs free stress, domain for stress assignment (supra-lexical vs lexical)–, one might expect Spanish learners of French to transfer the accentual properties from Spanish L1 to French L2. Nevertheless, we found, in (Schwab 2012), that advanced Spanish learners of French do not simply transfer the properties of stress from their mother tongue to French. Indeed, they seem to have acquired the knowledge that stress is fixed in French, but not that stress is realized at the accentual phrase level. The aim of the present research is to confirm these findings by using the same methodology with a larger sample of participants. As in Schwab (2012), two variables are taken into account: the syllabic structure of the word (ending with an open/closed syllable) and the word's location within the accentual phrase (stressed/unstressed position). The first group of participants is composed of eight native speakers of French from Geneva while the second group is formed of eight Spanish advanced learners of French, living in Geneva. All participants produce the material taken from Schwab (2012). It consists of 36 trisyllabic French pseudowords (18 ending with an open syllable and 18 ending with an closed syllable) that appear in two conditions: 1) As a noun at the right edge of the accentual phrase, i.e. in a stressed position (e.g. un certain poutila || piquait tous les touristes; some poutila bit all the tourists); 2) As a prenominal adjective, which is not at the right edge of the accentual phrase, i.e. in an unstressed position (e.g. un poutila pic || était très utile, a poutila pick was very useful). Acoustic analyses are performed on each vowel of the sentence: we extract the duration (in ms), the mean value of F0 (in Hz) and the maximum value of amplitude (in dB). For each parameter, we calculate, for each production, the mean and the standard deviation across all the vowels of the sentence, in order to normalize the data with z-scores. Following Schwab (2012), we first predict the syllabic structure of the pseudoword (open/closed syllable) not to have an effect on the realization of French stress in Spanish speakers (nor in French speakers). Second, we predict the context (stressed/unstressed) to play a significant role in Spanish as well as in French speakers. Finally, we expect Spanish speakers to mark the final syllable of the pseudoword in a greater extent than French speakers, especially in the adjective context. This would confirm that Spanish learners of French, although advanced, show difficulties in de-stressing words that are not at the right edge of the accentual phrase.