Articulatory conflict resolution strategies among L1 and L2 SENCOTEN speakers
This paper documents variation in the strategies used by SENCOTEN speakers of different generations and fluency levels to overcome articulatory conflicts, i.e., sequences of sounds that are difficult to pronounce because they require conflicting configurations of the articulators (Gick & Wilson, 2006). Previous work on SENCOTEN /qi/ and /iq/ sequences (Bird & Leonard, 2006; Bird, 2012) is based on two fluent L1 speakers, and shows that three main strategies are used: 1) compromise of the vowel (/iq/ > [Iq]); 2) insertion of a transitional element, often a fricative (/iq/ > [ixq]); and 3) dynamic tongue movement during the /q/ closure (/iq/ > [ikq]). Crucially, all of these strategies maintain some acoustic evidence of the uvular /q/ closure. One of the concerns among the SENCOTEN-speaking community is that the velar~uvular contrast is being lost in younger (L2) speakers (Bird & Kell, 2015). If this is the case, it is likely that articulatory conflict resolution strategies would reflect this, for example /iq/ > [ik]. To explore this possibility, a phonetic study was conducted on two specific sequences: /iq/ and /sq/; both of these require moving quickly between a high, advanced tongue position and a (relatively low) retracted position. Target words containing these sequences (e.g. /sqaxe7 ‘dog’; /st’iqel/ ‘bog’) were recorded by 12 speakers varying in generation and fluency level. Preliminary results show that (younger) L2 speakers do indeed tend to pronounce /q/ as [k] in these sequences, whereas their elders (L1 speakers) use a variety of strategies that, for the most part, maintain /q/. Findings offer insight into the strategies used to ease pronunciation among L2 learners, and also give us valuable direction in terms of teaching and learning SENCOTEN.
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