Electronic Theses and Dissertations





Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Comm Sciences and Disorders


Speech Lang Sci & Disorders

Committee Chair

D. Kimbrough Oller

Committee Member

Linda Jarmulowicz

Committee Member

Corinna Ethington

Committee Member

Satomi Izumi-Taylor


Little is known about the learning of allophonic variations by second-language learners. Accurate production of allophonic variants depends on the context in which a sound occurs. The flap, an allophone of English and a phoneme of Spanish, is used in different environments in English and Spanish. Given these differences, how do young English language learners (ELLs) address allophonic variation as presented by flap? This dissertation includes two papers that examine the learning of phonetic flap during elementary school. In the first paper, flap production by ELLs in kindergarten whose first language was Spanish was examined. The allophonic status of flap in English and phonemic status of flap in Spanish suggest that ELLs could expereinces negative transfer in learning. If so, they might show Spanish-like errors on flap in English. Thirty ELLs, 30 English monolinguals, and 29 Spanish monolinguals participated. A significant interaction indicated more t/d substitutions in English and more SemiVowel/liquid substitutions in Spanish, contradicting the expectation of negative transfer. We concluded that ELLs at early kindergarten rapidly adapted to English patterns of flap production even though the two language conflict in phonemic/allophonic status of flap. ELLs were also more accurate at producing flap in Spanish than English. Minimal negative transfer of phonetic/allophonic characteristics of flap between Spanish and English revealed in the first paper suggested that children learning a second language adapt quickly to allophonic variation in the new language. In the second paper, flap production was studied longitudinally in 20 of the ELLs from the prior study, with data from early kindergarten, late kindergarten, and fourth grade. Comparisons were made to English monolinguals. Patterns of flap production were surprisingly similar across test dates for monolinguals and ELLs in English. By fourth grade, the ELLs' use of flap in both Spanish and English was overwhelmingly correct, and the pattern of errors was similar for ELLs and monolinguals. Overall, learning of the proper use of phonetic flap was rapid for young English language learners, suggesting they quickly acquired an implicit understanding of flap's association with t and d in English. These results offer new perspectives on how the two languages of bilingual children interact phonologically.


Data is provided by the student.

Library Comment

dissertation or thesis originally submitted to the local University of Memphis Electronic Theses & dissertation (ETD) Repository.