Perception of French Vowels by American English Adults With and Without French Language Experience

Levy, Erika S.; Strange, Winifred

This study investigated the effects of language experience and consonantal context on American English (AE) listeners’ discrimination of contrasts involving Parisian French vowels /y, œ, u, i/. Vowels were produced in /rabVp/ and /rabVt/ nonsense disyllables in carrier phrases by 3 speakers and presented in a categorial AXB discrimination task. Two groups were tested: AE listeners who had studied French extensively beginning after age 13 (Exp) and non-French-speaking AE listeners (Inexp). The Exp group performed better than the Inexp group on /u-œ/, /i-y/ and /y-œ/ (mean errors: Exp=5%, Inexp=24%). However, for /u-y/, the groups did not differ (Exp=30% vs Inexp=24% errors). The Inexp group confused /i-y/ more often in bilabial context, but /u-y/ more often in alveolar context, whereas the Exp group confused /u-y/ in both contexts. Overall, the Inexp group performed better in bilabial than in alveolar context (16% vs 32% errors), whereas the Exp group revealed no context effect. Results suggest that learning a second language (L2) includes learning its coarticulatory rules. Implications for models of L2-speech perception are discussed.


  • thumnail for Levy_&_Strange__2008__to_upload_to_Columbia.pdf Levy_&_Strange__2008__to_upload_to_Columbia.pdf application/pdf 485 KB Download File

Also Published In

Journal of Phonetics

More About This Work

Academic Units
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Published Here
July 17, 2020


Keywords: cross-language speech perception; vowels; French; consonantal context; second-language learners