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Title: Foreigner-directed speech and L2 speech learning in an understudied interactional setting: the case of foreign-domestic helpers in Oman
Authors: Al Kendi, Azza
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: Set in Arabic-speaking Oman, the present study investigates whether speech directed to foreign domestic helpers (FDH-directed speech) is modified when compared with speech addressed to native Arabic speakers. It also explores the FDH’s ability to learn the sound system of their L2 in a near-naturalistic setting. In relation to input, the study explores whether there are any adaptations in native speakers’ realizations of complex Arabic consonants, consonant clusters, and vowels in FDH-directed speech. By doing so, it compares the phonetic features of FDH-directed speech in relation to other speech registers such as foreigner-directed speech (FDS), infant-directed speech (IDS) and clear speech. The study also investigates whether foreign accentedness, religion and Arabic language experience, as indexed by length of residence (LoR), play a role in the extent of adaptations present in FDH-directed speech. In relation to L2 speech learning, the study investigates the extent to which FDHs are sensitive to the phonemic contrasts of Arabic and whether their production of complex Arabic consonants and consonant clusters is target-like. It also examines the social and linguistic factors (LoR, first and second language literacy) that play a role in the learnability of these sounds. Speech recordings were collected from 22 Omani female native Arabic speakers who interacted 1) with their FDHs and 2) with a native-speaking adult (the order was reversed for half of the participants), in both instances using a spot the difference task. A picture naming task was then used to collect data for production data by the same FDHs, while perception data consisted of an AX forced choice task. Results demonstrate the distinctiveness of FDH-directed speech from other speech registers. Neither simplification of complex sounds nor hyperarticulation of consonant contrasts were attested in FDH-directed speech, despite them being reported in other studies on FDS and IDS. We attribute this to the familiarity of the native speakers with their FDHs and the formulaic nature of their daily interactions. Expansion of vowel space was evident in this study, conforming with other FDS studies. Results from perception and production tasks revealed that FDHs fell short of native-like performance, despite the more naturalistic setting and regardless of LoR. L1 and L2 literacy played varying roles in FDHs’ phonological sensitivity and production of certain contrasts. The study is original is terms of showing that FDS is not an automatic outcome of interactions with L2 speakers and links these results with the unusual social setting.
Description: Ph. D. (Integrated) Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

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