An Emerging Area in Second Language Phonology: The Perception of English Vowels by Adult Second Language Learners

Matsubara, Juri

Although the field of second language acquisition (SLA) has largely advanced over the last few decades, the area of second language (L2) phonology has not been a focus of many studies. Major (1998) found that “of the nearly 200 articles published in Studies in SLA [from 1988 to 1998], only about a dozen focused on phonetics and phonology” (p. 131). Since then, the area has largely expanded, as discussed in Eckman (2004), evolving from studies that cited first language (L1) influence as a main explanation for L2 phonology to research that has turned to universal principles driven by Universal Grammar (UG). Several crosslinguistic speech perception models have been developed as well, and many empirical studies have been undertaken to yield support. One of the most fertile domains for the investigation of L2 phonology has been the syllable (Eckman, 2004, p. 527). However, most of the studies have concentrated on the onset or the coda, while there is much yet to be explored for the acquisition of the nucleus of the syllable – the vowel. This paper is a literature review of the emerging area of L2 phonology, focusing on the perception of English vowels by adult L2 learners. First, the background will be presented by describing several theoretical models for L2 speech perception. A detailed description of empirical studies that seek to support these models will follow. Next, this paper will explore whether or not these models are compatible with each other and if they could be consolidated into one. Finally, the future direction of L2 phonology will be discussed.


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Working Papers in TESOL & Applied Linguistics

More About This Work

Academic Units
Applied Linguistics and Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages
Published Here
October 23, 2015