Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Complexity and Naturalness in First Language and Second Language Phonotactic Learning

This thesis sought to test learning biases present in first language (L1) and second language (L2) acquisition. It was predicted that a bias for phonetically grounded, typologically common (“natural”) patterns would be present in L1 learning, and that a bias for patterns involving a small number of phonetic features (“simple”) would be present in L2 learning. A methodology similar to Hayes and White (2013) was used to test the presence of these biases in the learning of 30 speakers of Canadian English and Canadian French by having the subjects perform grammaticality judgment tasks in both of these languages. The results suggest biases for simple and natural constraints could be more active in L1 learning than in L2 learning. This falls in line with past studies and raises questions about the nature of L2 acquisition. Future research could explore whether L2 phonological learning has fewer biases in general, or if it has biases other than naturalness and complexity.