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ANU-CoEDL ZOOM Seminar: Second dialect acquisition in a second language, Ksenia Gnevsheva, Anita Szakay & Sandra Jansen, 29 May

Date: 14 May 2020

Seminar: Second dialect acquisition in a second language

Speakers: Ksenia Gnevsheva, Australian National University,Anita Szakay, Macquarie University and Sandra Jansen, University of Paderborn

When: 29 May 2020, 3pm

Where: via zoom (please email for zoom link invitation)


Second dialect acquisition (SDA) is the process whereby a speaker acquires features of another dialect; for example, a native speaker of American English using the word ‘lollies’ for sweets after living in Australia. SDA in the first language (L1) is well-documented in the sociolinguistic literature (e.g., Siegel, 2010). However, SDA in a second language (L2) context (for instance, a native speaker of Russian moving to Australia after living in the USA and speaking American English) has received much less attention. This project investigates SDA in L2 speakers of English who – due to geographical mobility – have acquired two distinct dialects of English (Australian English and American English) and compares it to SDA in L1.

Four groups of participants with different linguistic backgrounds were recruited in Australia: (1) L2 speakers of English who had lived in America, (2) L2 speakers of English who had not lived in other English-speaking countries, (3) native speakers of American English, and (4) native speakers of Australian English. They performed a number of tasks: lexical preference, lexical decision, shadowing, and reading. To assess the participants’ preference of lexical items, they were shown 50 pictures of objects which are denoted by different lexemes in American and Australian English (e.g. candy vs lolly), which the participants had to name. In the lexical decision task the participants were presented with American or Australian lexical items produced by an Australian or an American and had to decide whether it was a real word or not. In the shadowing task, the participants read a word list and then repeated the same words twice, after a speaker of Australian English and a speaker of American English.

The results of the lexical preference task indicate that L2 speakers fall between the two L1 groups; there is also a significant difference between the two L2 groups, illustrating SDA in L2. An analysis of participant accuracy in the lexical decision task suggests that L1 speakers are more sensitive to the match between dialect of lexical item and speaker accent. All groups accommodated similarly across most variables in the shadowing task, except for BATH where L2 speakers demonstrated more convergence to both varieties. Overall, the findings suggest higher flexibility in SDA in L2 compared to SDA in L1, which can be explained through both social and cognitive differences between L1 and L2. 


Siegel, J. (2010). Second Dialect Acquisition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Australian Government
  • The University of Queensland
  • Australian National University
  • The University of Melbourne
  • Western Sydney University