Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Second language learners fare better with their own accent by speaker

"... found that this system (using the new language's accent) is not necessarily the best and certainly not the most expeditious.
The present study set out to reveal the level of phonological information that the adult learner requires in order to identify words in a second language that had been learned at a later age, and whether the level of phonological information that they require varies when the words are pronounced in different accents.


The findings show that there is no difference in the amount of phonological information that the native Hebrew speakers need in order to decipher the words, regardless of accent. With the Russian and Arabic speakers, on the other hand, less phonological information was needed in order to recognize the Hebrew word when it was pronounced in the accent of their native language than when they heard it in the accent of another language."
This touches upon a point I have made about Esperanto in the past.

The speaker of a language can reduce mental demands by speaking in the easiest fashion. That would be the fashion that most closely resembles their native language.
But this in turn increases the demands on the listener, if the listener comes from a different language background.
This would be true of allophonic phonemes, of word order and also of syllable stress.
The strains that Esperanto would cause on the speaker would be:
1) yes, the Espo speaker can select word order. However, if their native language has rigid word order, then it likely does NOT have -or require- mandatory grammatical element markers.
2) the number of possible acceptable allophones is fairly limited, given Espo's middling number of phonemes. This is more true of consonants, though less true of vowels.
3) Espo has a syllable stress system that may stress a different syllable than is 'natural' for the speaker.
Plus there is a rough dividing line between stress systems. One varies timing on the stressed syllable and the other does not.
An English speaker will use a longer time duration on a stressed syllable. A French speaker will not.
Put another way, a French Espo speaker will not think to add increased duration to a stressed Espo syllable. Whereas the English listener would be trying to detect the stressed syllable via increased duration.

We see that the only linguistic background happy with highly variable word in Espo would be:
1) heavily infixing and
2) variable word order.

I assume that even if the speaker in the above example uses Espo, they will
1) use the same word order of their natural language but
2) using Espo Latinate infixes.

A listener of said speaker of Espo may very well come from a language background that
1) does not use infixes heavily and
2) uses a different word order.
Resulting in demands on their listening skills that can include:
1) phoneme confusion
2) stress confusion
3) poor word boundary parsing - they may well hear 'babble'.
4) trying to use unfamiliar infixes and infixing to detect
5) unfamiliar word order.
The demands on the listener are considerable!

Moral of the story: off-loading work onto the listener may be easier for the speaker. But if the purpose of communication is not only to talk to oneself, then somebody still needs to do the work.

D: the article never really nails down what constitutes an 'accent' versus dialect.
I was thinking about how an aux-lang can go mainstream.
I was thinking in terms of terrorist/guerrilla (insurgent) movements.
In terms of whether they are foreign-supported (Contras) or have widespread domestic support (V.C.).
I won't worry too much about the terrorist/guerrilla distinction, since it so politicized.
Suffice to say that the purpose of a guerrilla movement is to train enough supporters to eventually return to conventional warfare. A terrorist movement can be accomplished with a very small group of supporters, but their tactics are severely limited. They cannot even engage in picking hit-and-run local battles with conventional forces, like guerrillas can.

Most aux-lang communities involve a handful of people. Terrorists (in the analogy) with no domestic support.
Toki Pona claims THREE fluent speakers - and this from a language designed with minimalism in mind!
Lojban did not even post a speaking community. I found reference to TWO fluent speakers.
At least Esperanto can claim TEN THOUSAND.
Definitely into 'guerrilla numbers' territory there.
But do they have the 'support of the local population'?
They exist only in a niche.
Almost nobody I speak with - even well educated ones, even polyglots- have ever heard of it.
So more Contra than VC.
There is no chance that the guerrilla movement, supported by the local people, can recruit and train more and more and eventually challenge conventional forces.
I.e.. a widely based support and recruitment from non-niche community.
I think this is closely linked to the niche appeal of their ideology of choice. I.e. internationalism.

My challenge remains to go through the stages of
1) small terrorist cell (in analogy!)
2) mid sized guerrilla movement.
But one with a stance with broad appeal! I.e. does not require constant artificial inputs to sustain it - the Contras.
Has support of community - Vietnam VC. VC had the hearts and mind of the people. The peasants versus US-backed landlords.
There is a winning formula!
Despite tossing huge materiel assistance at the US-backed Vietnam government, they toppled in no time once the USA pulled out. All the hardware in the world was no match for a broadly-based domestic insurgency.
I guess I'm saying I want my aux-lang to emulate the VC.
If it does so, with broad appeal and an increasing number of supports and recruits, then it could overcome any opposition!

Now how to do so....

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