A Sociophonetic Analysis of the Role of Cultural Identification in L2 English Speech Production

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Engelska institutionen

Abstract: Research in the relationship between second language (L2) production and study abroad has largely focused on establishing a connection between exchange studies and the success rate of second language acquisition. This Bachelor's thesis investigates L2 production by studying L2 English speakers' attitudes regarding the target language culture in relation to their production of a regionally typical phoneme by formulating the research question “How does cultural identification with the target language environment influence L2 phonetic production in the L1 language community?” in hopes of contributing to sociophonetic studies. This is done by conducting a qualitative study based on the phonetic production of rhoticity and the experiences of nine Swedish former exchange students to the United States. The study draws on existing research that highlights the saliency of rhoticity, as well as provides insight into the importance of identity in language use and into the relevance of motivation and the establishing of social networks for L2 gains during study abroad. To provide a framework for understanding these issues, the Social Network Strength Scale is applied. The results and data analysis suggest that, opposite to expectation, there is no clear relationship between cultural identification and L2 phonetic production for speakers who are no longer immersed into the L2 environment. However, the results establish a possible connection between maintaining a dense social network with native speaker members of the L2 community, as well as of having an awareness and capacity to understand the L2 culture, and a higher percentage of phonetic production of sounds typical for the L2 environment.

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