Phonetic Drift

My doctoral dissertation initiated a line of research into the details of second language (L2) learning effects on native language (L1) phonology, which was briefly discussed on the radio.

I found that even brief experience with learning an L2 led to rapid and pervasive changes in production of the L1 (“phonetic drift”). Moreover, this cross-language influence occurred at segmental, subsegmental, and global levels, suggesting that structural links between the L1 and L2 are established at the onset of L2 learning between corresponding phonological units of varying size (Chang, 2010c, 2011, 2012a).

Interestingly, L2 effects on the L1 were less pronounced when learners had previous knowledge of the L2, suggesting that the influence of recent L2 experience is enhanced in novice learners by a novelty effect and diminished by progressive familiarization with the L2 (Chang, 2013b).

In current work, I am tracking participants’ L1 phonology over the course of a year abroad in the L2 environment to examine the perseverance of this phenomenon, as well as to tease apart effects of L2 learning from effects of ambient L2 exposure.

Assistant Professor of Linguistics, Boston University