Degree Date

2010

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Russian

Abstract

This study of L-2 Russian interlanguage production examined the salience of phonetic, lexical and syntactical features for L-1 listener intelligibility, based on L-2recitation of written scripts (Part I) and also unrehearsed speech (Part II). Part III of the study investigated strategies used by native-speaking teachers of Russian as a Second Language and experienced Russian host families to facilitate comprehensibility of L-2Russian speech.

The respondent group consisted of 51 native-Russian speakers plus a 20-member ethnic Russian control group, whose speech samples were also rated by the informant group. The 51 respondents comprised four sub-groups based on residency (Russia/US), profession (teacher/non-teacher of Russian as a Second Language), experience with Americans and knowledge of English.

Part I participants listened to eight L-2 American speakers of Russian of beginning, intermediate, advanced and superior proficiency levels read a text in Russian and noted which aspect(s) of L-2 speech affected intelligibility. In Part II, participants listened to the same L-2 speakers spontaneously speak in Russian about their families, and then recorded which non-nativelike productions in grammar, pronunciation, lexicon and syntax were salient. In Part III, 18 L-2 Russian Teachers and 8 Russian home-stay family hosts were surveyed regarding both effective and ineffective strategies used to facilitate comprehensibility with American speakers of Russian.

The results of Part I revealed the salience of L-2 pronunciation (especially of paired consonants) by speakers of all proficiency levels for L-1 listener intelligibility. However, data revealed that native Russian listeners rated “lack of emotional expression”[intonational contours] as having most interfered with the intelligibility of speakers in the control group.

Part II findings confirmed that, although ratings across different respondent groups varied regarding L-2 proficiency levels and degree of incomprehensibility, non-nativelike pronunciation by L-2 speakers of all levels resulted in the greatest incomprehensibility for L-1 listeners. Six of the eight respondent groups determined that incorrect word choice by Level 1, 2 and 4 L-2 speakers resulted in incomprehension. Four of the eight respondent groups identified non-normative productions in L-2 syntax by Level 1 and 2 speakers as salient. Hesitation devices and fillers used by L-2 speakers also resulted in L-1 listener incomprehension.

The results of Part III showed that inter-active strategies used to clarify or improve poor L-2 pronunciation or grammar knowledge are most effective when students are highly motivated, have low inhibition, and make a concerted effort to communicate with their teachers, as well as with home-stay hosts.

Comments

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