Dissertation Defense of Jorge Méndez Seijas

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The Department of Spanish and Portuguese cordially invites you to attend the dissertation defense of Jorge Méndez Seijas.


Mentor: Alfonso Morales Front, Ph.D.
Commette Member: Cristina Sanz, Ph.D.
Commette Member: Germán Zárate-Sández, Ph.D.

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019
Time: 5 PM – 7 PM
Location: ICC 450

     There is increasing interest in the acquisition of second language (L2) intonation (e.g, Estebas-Vilaplana, 2017; Graham & Post, 2018), particularly in Spanish (e.g., McKinnon, 2017; van Maastricht, 2018; Yuan, González-Fuerte, Baills, & Prieto, 2019; Zárate-Sández, 2018). Some of the previous research on L2 Spanish (e.g., Henriksen, Geeslin, & Willis, 2010; Thornberry, 2014; Trimble, 2013) has sought to determine which parameters (e.g., peak alignment) are most likely to be acquired under what conditions (e.g., short vs. long stays abroad). What is still unknown is what makes these specific parameters relatively easier or more difficult to acquire. In this dissertation, I have attempted to resolve this conundrum by couching all analyses and interpretations within the L2 Intonation Learning Theory (LILt: Mennen, 2015), a new model specifically designed to analyze intonation data. This theoretical approach makes this dissertation the first formal analysis of L2 Spanish intonation.

     A total of 82 Spanish learners of various proficiency levels participated in one of two studies that explored the acquisition of intonation in two different contexts: classroom (beginning, n =18; intermediate, n =21; and advanced, n =24) and study abroad (advanced, n = 19). I examined the acquisition of prenuclear F0 peak alignment, the phonetic mapping of final boundary tones, and pitch range phenomena. The results indicate that the LILt is a useful and valuable theoretical tool to analyze L2 intonation data. In my discussion, I detail how the theoretical analyses that this model allows have helped to clarify, at least to some extent, why some of the parameters under investigation (e.g., the mapping of boundary tones) appear to be more difficult to acquire than others (e.g., prenuclear peak alignment).