Interaction between Markedness and Transfer in English Coda Nasals: Taiwanese Learning English as a Foreign Language

Hsiu-ling Hsu


This paper aims to explore how a transfer effect and an unmarkedness effect interact in Taiwanese EFL (English as a foreign language) learners’ English production, using an Optimality Theoretic approach. My focus is the nasals in syllable coda positions. This study carried out an English production experiment, in which sixty-two participants took part. These participants were 29 Mandarin native speakers (the Mandarin group: MG) and 33 Southern Min native speakers (the Southern Min group: SG). Each participant read 51 test sentences with target coda nasals. There are three major findings in this study: (1) Southern Min speakers have less difficulty with English /m/ than Mandarin speakers do, suggesting a positive transfer of the first language (L1) phonemic system to the second language (L2); (2) there exists a strong tendency toward unmarked coronal [n] in codas found in both MG and SG and there is no phonological rule of [m] or [ŋ] becoming [n] in these learners’ L1, revealing that an unmarkedness effect plays a significant role in shaping the production of interlanguage English with respect to coda nasals; and (3) the preceding two findings reveal that transfer and unmarkedness interact to influence the learning of English coda nasals and that unmarkedness overrides transfer in shaping Taiwanese EFL learners’ English interlanguage, leading to the strong preference for unmarked [n] in phonetic representations.

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Studies in Media and Communication      ISSN 2325-8071 (Print)   ISSN 2325-808X (Online)

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