Cross linguistic influences in the production and perception of English lexical stress by Kazakh-Russian-English Trilingual speakers

  • Yakefu, Mayila (PI)
  • Jongman, Allard (Other Faculty/Researcher)
  • Sereno, Joan (Other Faculty/Researcher)
  • Kuzekova, Zeinekhan (Other Faculty/Researcher)
  • Rakhmanova, Zarina (Other participant)

Project: FDCRGP

Project Details

Grant Program

Faculty Development Competitive Research Grant Program 2018-2020

Project Description

The section should include the following information: the purpose of the Project; scientific novelty and significance, the impact of the results on the development of science and technology and the expected social and economic impacts; a review of previous research conducted in the world related to the topic under the study and their relationship with this Project.
The purpose of this project:
This project aims to examine the acquisition of L3 phonology in Kazakh-Russian trilingual speakers in Kazakhstan. It is based on the pilot study in Nazarbayev University in 2015-2016 in which we examined the acquisition of English stress pattern by non-native speaker. The pilot test focused on the acquisition of English stress produced by Kazakh-Russian bilinguals, who are students learned English as third plus languages. The pilot study and present study take place in multilingual country that raises several research questions. First, the teaching English as a third language from elementary school is one component of Kazakhstani education nowadays. In 2006 President Nursultan Nazarbayev proposed the Trilingual education in Kazakhstan (Fimyar,, 2014, Bridges, 2017 etc.). Since that, certain amount of research has been focused on the language policy and education (Smagulva 2008; Pavlenko, 2008); however, there is a little research about acoustic analyses about the acquisition of English by Kazakh-Russian-English trilingual speakers in Kazakhstani context. In Nazarbayev University, students acquired native Kazakh, Russian and English (L3). The community with three languages and the typologically different language systems provide a unique window for investigating L3 acquisition.
In the pilot study PI and her student (Yakup & Omanova, 2015) limited the scope on the production of English stress (L3) by Kazakh-Russian bilinguals in the pilot test regardless of accent/stress patterns in Kazakh, which is fixed stress and final position (Johnson, 1998; Kirchner, 1998) and Russian, which has free stress (Wade, 1992:14). In the pilot research, we used two different trilingual groups in which the Kazakh-Russian-English trilingual group has Kazakh as a first language; on the other hand, the Russian-Kazakh-English trilingual group has Russian as the first language with the advanced level of Kazakh. All participants were given consent form and the project met IREC protocols. However, both groups have high level of English (IELTS= 6.5 and above), and Russian is dominant language for both groups. Average fundamental frequency, duration, average intensity, and first and second formant frequencies for vowels were collected in the stressed and unstressed syllables from twenty female speakers (10 for each group). The results showed that similar patterns in which both group participants used duration and intensity as cues but not fundamental frequency. However, we don’t know the influences of L1 and L2 to L3 acquisition respectively. Moreover, the role of dominant language such as Russian to acquisition English is also not known to us. This aims of this project are to extend the investigation of influences of the previous languages to English.
Present study systematically investigated cross-linguistic influences examining acoustic correlates of stress in native Kazakh speakers, Russian native speakers, Kazakh-Russian bilinguals and English learners of Kazakh-Russian bilinguals. The research questions include as follow:
(1) What are basic acoustic cues for assigning accent/stress in Kazakh language?
(2) Do the Kazakh-Russian bilinguals have a similar pattern as Russian native speakers?
(3) Which acoustic cues do Kazakh-Russian bilinguals use in producing English stress contrasted words?
Then we can answer the question about “How do L1 (Language 1) and L2 (Language 2) influence on the acquisition of English in Kazakh-Russian-English trilingual speakers?”
The research proposed the acquisition of third language (English) phonology among Kazakh-Russian bilinguals. We will systematically and separately examine stress/accent pattern in Kazakh language, stress pattern in Russian and the acquisition of stress pattern of English by Kazakh-Russian-English trilingual speakers in Eurasian University and Nazarbayev University. By comparing each language’s stress pattern, we will investigate what is the pattern of the English stress of non-native speakers and how their Kazakh and Russian stress/accents influence on English stress pattern. This research is not only focus on production of stress and also perception of stress. Perception of stress in English is not only influenced by native language or dominant language but also effectively using acoustic parameters (Chrabaszcz et al, 2014). While investigating production and perception of English stress pattern, we will find the cues that will provide strong signals for production and perception and we also find weak cues that will disappear during the production and perception of English stress.
The impact of the results on the development of science and technology and the expected social and economic impacts;
In our research, we will provide scientific evidences for the acquisition of third language. It will be a guideline in the future for teaching English as third language in the context of Kazakhstan or even Central Asia. Much research has focused on the production and perception of stress patterns by non-native speakers; however, little research directly studied how foreign language teachers teach target language accent patterns even though English has a body of materials for teaching grammar, far less material exist for teaching stress patterns (Derwing & Munro, 2005). When foreign language learners produce the target language words, they not only have difficulty in producing some phonemes that do not exist in their previous languages they acquired from childhood, but they also have difficulty in producing stress patterns in the target languages, especially when the native language does not use the same acoustic parameters. Foreign language learners commonly misplace the stress in their target languages (Archibald, 1992, Mennen, 2006). Munro and Derwing (1995) indicated that misplacing stress in the utterances may cause several issues including comprehensibility, intelligibility and accentedness. According to Munro and Derwing (1995) intelligibility is a realistic goal to achieve in foreign language teaching as a first step. The prosodic information about accent, pitch, and stress is required at a superior level (among the levels of novice, intermediate, advanced and superior) by ACTFL (American Council on Teaching of Foreign Language). At the superior level, L2 speakers should produce native -like stress, and sentential accent as shown below:
“Superior speakers command a variety of interactive and discourse strategies, such as turn-taking and separating main ideas from supporting information through the use of syntactic and lexical devices, as well as intonational features such as pitch, stress and tone.” (ACTFL)
However, the acquisition of stress and intonation is a process and should be included from the beginning as a practical goal. In order to increase intelligibility, there are certain methods that may be possible to improve foreign language learners’ production.
First, teachers should increase the awareness of iambic and trochaic stress patterns in English especially disyllabic words. Based on our pilot test, if students have some mistakes, they usually acquired one variety in which they only use noun version which is trochaic stress, strong-weak stress and ignore the verb version which is iambic stress that is weak-strong stress. Secondly, teachers could also use a combination of perception and production training. In the teaching, teachers provide a situation in which English learners perceive the correct stress pattern and produce it later. When they create practice materials, they should focus on different acoustic parameters that used by Kazakh-Russian bilinguals when they produce English stress words. The learners will learn which cues they should use when they produce the correct forms. Herd (2011) investigated the acquisition of Spanish phonemes by English speakers. In her research, she used three different training methods including only production, only perception, and a combination of production and perception. Herd (2011) found that L2 learners had more benefits from only perception and a combination of production and perception training. She concluded that perception training improves their production in L2. Suprasegmental learning seems to be similar to segmental learning in L2 (Trofimovich & Baker, 2006). The L2 training effect was observed not only at the segmental level but also at the suprasegmental level. Wang et al (1999) trained English learners of Chinese to acquire Mandarin Chinese tone. They examined the acquisition of tone in Mandarin Chinese by non-native speakers. They included pre-test, training, immediate post-test and delayed post-test (after six months). They found that participants acquire the tones to some extent (shown also as changes at the neural level) and that even after six months, trainees still kept the Mandarin tone production improvements. Wang et al. (2003) also found that perception based training can substantially improve the production by 18 % in Chinese tone perceptual training. It could be possible to use the perception and production training in the acquisition of English stress pattern for non-native speakers. Another merit of this method is that foreign language learners will learn stress patterns actively and they will learn from different speakers and from themselves. Sometimes, ‘immediate correcting,’ does not work for some shy leaners, but the second method may be effective for this type of foreign language learners. The perception and production training could use a strict lab-based practice using discrimination tasks and identification tasks in which teachers provide minimal pairs and ask students to indicate where the stress is, or students could listen to word pairs and indicate whether the word pair has the same stress or different stress. In order to make tasks close to natural speech, teachers can use multiple speakers with different accents or dialects.
Scientific novelty and significance,
The significance of this research will be explained as follow:
First, there is no acoustic research about the acquisition of L3 prosodic phonology in Kazakh trilingual speakers in Kazakhstan context. The majority research focused on Swedish, English, French, Russian or German etc. (Hammarberg, 2009). In theoretical contribution of our research is that it will provide typological evidences in terms of acquisition of English stress pattern by non-native speakers. Because we focus on Kazakh language, Russian language and English languages which are typologically different, and Kazakh is less commonly used language in the world. The results will provide unique window to understand the stress pattern of English by non-native speakers.
Second, the key factors in cross-linguistic influence are typology of previous learnt languages and L2 status (Llama et al, 2010). There is very limited research about typologically different languages that is directly related to transformed components of L1 and L2. Kazakh language is also a good example for typologically different from either Russian or English. It will provide a unique window how the typologically different languages influence L3 prosodic phonology.
Third, the results will provide scientific foundation for improving methodology in teaching English as a third language in Kazakh universities. Usually teaching English as a third language is different from teaching English as a second language (Jessiner et al, 2007). From the results in learning prosodic information, specifically stress pattern, we should know how much L1 and L2 components transfer into L3. In L1 Kazakh language, stress (accent) is on the final position without Kazakh language does not have vowel reduction. In L2 Russian, stress is not regular as English and it has vowel reduction on unstressed vowels. English as a L3, stress can differentiate the meaning and unstressed syllables have vowel reduction. As L3 learners of English, they will know the English stress is different from their L1 and L2. This phonological awareness will help them to transfer some positive information from L1 and L2 into their L3. In teaching L3 teachers should avoid negative influence of Kazakh which is final stressed language and no vowel reduction, and also avoid Russian vowel reduction which is focused on /a/ not schwa in English. Practical contribution in Kazakhstan is that it will provide how to teach English for Kazakh-Russian bilinguals. There are pieces of research how to teach English for Russians; however, there is no research about teaching English stress for Kazakh native speakers. It will provide scientific evidence for teaching English as third language in Kazakhstan as we mentioned in pedagogical implication above.
Review of previous research
The acquisition of L3 is a young field in linguistics (Gut, 2010). In this field, there is a great debate concerning about terminology and lack of consistent results. Unlike L2 acquisition which is based on native language, L3 acquisition is based on another foreign language system. Prior experiences in learning L2, native language L1 and meta-linguistic knowledge among trilingual speakers influence their L3 learning process. Consequently, L3 language production and perception are different from L2 due to cross-linguistic influence (De Angelis & Dewaele, 2011; Hammarberg et al, 2001; Dewaele, 2001; Llama et al, 2010; Tremblay, 2006). The cross linguistic influence is displayed in bilingual and multilingual speaker’s production, perception, phonological awareness, and code-switching (Gut, 2010). Even though much research regarding trilingual in lexicon, morph - syntax and syntax, there is limited research on L3 phonology cross countries (Hammarberg, 2001). One of the basic question L3 acquisition is that how the cross linguistic influence affects the L3 speakers’ phonology. In other words, researchers want to know what components from previous languages could be transferred or interferences to L3. The acquisition of L3 phonology includes pronunciation of sounds in L3, rhythm of speech, stress pattern, vowel reduction etc. This project will examine the critical questions in L3 acquisition in which we will answer the question about how the prosody is processed in trilingual speakers’ mind. Previous research has been focusing on the cross linguistic influence on the L3 phonemes (Pyun, 2005). Pyun (2005) examined the Korean L1, English L2 and Swedish L3 on specific phones and suggested that there would be four different phonological categories including three are from three different languages and one for interrules. L3 phonology realization will occur within these four phonological categories. In terms of cross linguistic influence, some research supported that L1 phonology has negative effects (Pyun, 2005) and other suggests that L2 has positive effects on L3 (Tremblay, 2006). Tremblay (2006) found effect of L2 proficiency and exposure times of L2 have greater effects on L3 acquisition. Cenoz (2001) found that linguistic distance could be good indicators on cross linguistic influence by examining role of previous languages Spanish, Basque on English (L3). Since Spanish and English are relatively closer than Basque and English. Therefore the role of Spanish is stronger than the role of Basque on English. It will tell us the cross linguistic influence is a complex system in which there are not only the pure linguistic components transfer to each other but also extra linguistic components will influence cross linguistic influence including acquisition of age of L3, linguistic distances, proficiency in L2 and L3, L2 status and recency etc.
Our focus is on the acquisition of English (L3) stress pattern by Kazakh-Russian bilinguals. In other words, How the Kazakh-Russian bilinguals produce and perceive English lexical stress. In production and perception studies, acoustic parameters are strongly correlated with stress location in English. Stressed syllables typically have higher fundamental frequency, longer duration, and greater intensity than unstressed syllables in English (Fry, 1955, 1958; Beckman, 1986). Acquisition of English stress pattern by non-native speakers has been focused on bilinguals (For Chinese, Zhang, Nissen and Francis, 2008; For Arabic, Zuraiq & Sereno, 2007; for Spanish, Guion et al 2010; For Russian; Banzina, 2012). The results indicated that even though L2 speakers acquire English stress, they still have common components from their L1 transferring into their L2. However, the basic questions including how much of the L1 and L2 components transfer into L3 and how the L2 status influences on their production of English stress were not completely answered yet.
In pilot study we observed the Kazakh-Russian-English trilingual speakers could produce English stress slightly different from Native speakers in which these trilingual speakers did not use fundamental frequency, but only used the duration and intensity. We haven’t capture vowel reduction yet. The vowel reductions exist in English and Russian, but not in Kazakh. In the present project we not only tease apart previous languages’ stress/accent patterns but also look at the vowel reductions in the Russian and English.
Until now little research focused on L3 acquisition of English lexical stress pattern. This research will also focus on perception of English stress by Kazakh-Russian bilinguals. Native phonological system does influence not only production of non-native sounds, but also perception of non-native sounds. Perception of English stress is extremely interesting it terms of learning English as L3. Several pieces of research have been examined effects of L1 for L2 in perception of English stress (Zhang, Nissen and Francis, 2010; Chrabaszcz, et. al, 2014; Vickie & Andruski, 2010). Among them, Chrabaszcz et. al (2014) examined the perception of English stress by native and non-native speakers in which participants from different language backgrounds did the identification tasks in English lexical stress and results showed that vowel reduction was the strongest signal for all speakers, and Chinese used pitch more unlike Russian in which they weighted pitch was on the less important cue. Vickie and Andruski (2010) examined Chinese and English speakers’ perception of English lexical stress and found that two groups used different parameters in perception of English lexical stress. English speakers prefer to use trochaic stress patterns and Chinese use iambic stress patterns. In acoustic parameters usage, English group used pitch and duration, but Chinese group more used the pitch more. The inconsistent results may be due to different languages they used and only the level of bilingual speakers, thus we initiate our research on trilingual speakers’ acquisition of L3 English stress. Kazakh language is also a good example for typologically different from either Russian or English. It will provide a unique window how the typologically different languages influence L3 prosodic phonology.
We have experts from USA and Local faculty at Nazarbayev University. The cooperation is not only nationwide but also international level. The faculty development fund is an excellent platform for this research on multilingualism and provides scientific guideline for future language policy and language teaching in Kazakhstan. We not only work with local students but also with experts from other departments in Nazarbayev University and Eurasian University in Astana.
Effective start/end date1/1/1812/31/21


  • Applied linguistics


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