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It is known that orthography has both positive and negative effects on second language acquisition. However, I can't really figure out when the effect is due to the L1, the L2 or both. For example, German obstruents are devoiced in syllable-final position; however, this rule is not represented in the orthography: /bʊnd/ is realized as [bʊnt] but is spelled bund rather than ∗bunt. Research shows that English speakers fail to devoice the final consonants the more they are exposed to orthographic input (Young-Scholten, 2000).

With this in mind, would you say such hindering effect occurs due to the orthography of the L2 (because is not transparent) or due to the L1 (because English has orthographic correlates for both voiced and unvoiced sounds)?

  • I would say that it is due to learners failing to apply the orthographic rules of L2. I found it striking how people could pronounce orthographic ph,th in Zulu (as stops) but when they got the textbook, they suddenly decided to produced them as f,θ. – user6726 Jan 3 at 6:27
  • If you're talking about language learning, you need to distinguish literacy effects from language effects. Many language learners are illiterate, and literate English speakers have completely different ideas about the relation of sounds to spelling letters than literate speakers of other European languages. English speakers think the sounds represent the letters, whereas the rest of the world has realized that the letters represent the sounds. Consequently, their orthographies are easy to interpret, while English orthography is not, and has to be learned separately from English pronunciation. – jlawler Jan 3 at 18:59

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