Language experience and consonantal context effects on perceptual assimilation of French vowels by American-English learners of French

Levy, Erika S.

Recent research has called for an examination of perceptual assimilation patterns in second-language speech learning. This study examined the effects of language learning and consonantal context on perceptual assimilation of Parisian French (PF) front rounded vowels /y/ and /œ/ by American English (AE) learners of French. AE listeners differing in their French language experience (no experience, formal instruction, formal-plus-immersion experience) performed an assimilation task involving PF /y, œ, u, o, i, ε, a/ in bilabial /rabVp/ and alveolar /radVt/ contexts, presented in phrases. PF front rounded vowels were assimilated overwhelmingly to back AE vowels. For PF /œ/, assimilation patterns differed as a function of language experience and consonantal context. However, PF /y/ revealed no experience effect in alveolar context. In bilabial context, listeners with extensive experience assimilated PF /y/ to /^ju/ less often than listeners with no or only formal experience, a pattern predicting the poorest /u-y/ discrimination for the most experienced group. An “internal consistency” analysis indicated that responses were most consistent with extensive language experience and in bilabial context. Acoustical analysis revealed that acoustical similarities among PF vowels alone cannot explain context-specific assimilation patterns. Instead it is suggested that native-language allophonic variation influences context-specific perceptual patterns in second-language learning.


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Also Published In

The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America

More About This Work

Academic Units
Communication Sciences and Disorders
Published Here
July 14, 2020


Keywords: Cross-linguistic speech perception. second language, speech learning, French, English