ERIC Number: EJ777252
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Mar
Reference Count: N/A
Perceiving Vowels in a Second Language
Flege, James Emil; MacKay, Ian R. A.
Studies in Second Language Acquisition, v26 n1 p1-34 Mar 2004
This study examines the perception of English vowels by native speakers of Italian. In two preliminary experiments, Italian university students who had lived in Canada for 3 months were found to have difficulty discriminating because they often identified both members of each contrast as instances of a single Italian vowel. The participants in two other experiments, long-time residents of Canada, were assigned to groups based on their age of arrival in Canada from Italy (early vs. late) and percentage of first language (L1) use (high L1 use vs. low L1 use). Experiment 3 focused on the discrimination of, and experiment 4 examined the discrimination of correct from incorrect realizations of. In both experiments, the early learners obtained higher discrimination scores than the late learners, and low-L1-use participants obtained higher scores than high-L1-use participants. Most important, the early learners who used Italian often (early high), but not the early learners who used Italian seldom (early low), were found to differ from native speakers of English in perceiving English vowels. These results suggest two important conclusions regarding second language (L2) perceptual learning: Learning an L2 in childhood does not guarantee a nativelike perception of L2 vowels, nor does the establishment of a sound system for the L1 preclude a functionally nativelike perception of L2 vowels. Another important finding is that, although the late learners generally perceived English vowels less accurately than the early learners, some perceived them accurately.
Descriptors: Vowels, Second Language Learning, Italian, Native Speakers, English (Second Language), College Students, Foreign Countries, Auditory Discrimination, Age, Place of Residence, Language Research, Language Usage, Scores
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education
Sponsor: National Inst. on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders, Bethesda, MD.
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Canada