The Production of New and Similar Vowels by Adult German Learners of English

  • Bohn O
  • Flege J
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The study reported in this paper examined the effect of second language (L2) experience on the production of L2 vowels for which acoustic counterparts are either present or absent in the first language (L1). The hypothesis being tested was that amount of L2 experience would not affect L1 German speakers' production of the “similar” English vowels /i, l, xs2208/, whereas English language experience would enable L1 Germans to produce an English-like /æ/, which has no counterpart in German. The predictions were tested in two experiments that compared the production of English /i, l, xs2208, æ/ by two groups of L1 German speakers differing in English language experience and an L1 English control group. An acoustic experiment compared the three groups for spectral and temporal characteristics of the English vowels produced in /bVt/ words. The same tokens were assessed for intelligibility in a labeling experiment. The results of both experiments were largely consistent with the hypothesis. The experienced L2 speakers did not produce the similar English vowels /i, l, xs2208/ more intelligibly than the inexperienced L2 speakers, not did experience have a positive effect on approximating the English acoustic norms for these similar vowels. The intelligibility results for the new vowel /æ/ did not clearly support the model. However, the acoustic comparisons showed that the experienced but not the inexperienced L2 speakers produced the new vowel /æ/ in much the same way as the native English speakers.

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  • Ocke-Schwen Bohn

  • James Emil Flege

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