Link to the University of Pittsburgh Homepage
Link to the University Library System Homepage Link to the Contact Us Form

The Perception of English Vowels By Native Spanish Speakers

Jeske, Andrew (2012) The Perception of English Vowels By Native Spanish Speakers. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

Primary Text

Download (960kB) | Preview


Many studies have shown that a person’s perception of second language (L2) sounds is affected by previous language experience, and there are multiple theories which attempt to account for this fact (Flege, 1995; Kuhl, 2000) One theory, the Perceptual Assimilation Model for Language Learners (PAM-L2), states that the difficulty of accurate L2 perception can be predicted through an assessment of the interaction between the first language (L1) and L2 sound systems (Best & Tyler, 2007). Specifically, the PAM-L2 framework makes predictions for the level of discrimination difficulty based on how the L2 tokens of any given contrast map onto language learners’ L1.
This study investigated the effect that previous language experience has on L1 Spanish speakers’ perception of L2 English vowels and interpreted the results in the framework of PAM-L2. Twelve native Spanish speakers from the University of Pittsburgh completed a vowel assimilation task which evaluated the perceived similarity between L2 English vowels and L1 Spanish vowels. Next, the participants were tested on their ability to distinguish distinct vowel categories in an AX discrimination task. Finally, they participated in a forced identification task to assess their ability to correctly label English speech sounds.
The results from the discrimination task supported PAM-L2’s predictions of discrimination difficulty for only six of the ten contrasts analyzed. Moreover, the results suggest that any L2 vowel contrast can be easy or difficult to discriminate, regardless of how the individual vowels of the contrast assimilate to the L1.
Results from the forced identification task showed that three of the four most inaccurately discriminated vowel contrasts contained one token that was misidentified as the other member of the contrast more frequently than it was correctly identified. For example, in the /i-ɪ/ contrast, /i/ was identified as /ɪ/ in 54% of all cases, while it was correctly labeled only 44% of the time.
The results from this study demonstrate that the PAM-L2 framework inadequately predicts levels of discrimination difficulty for L2 vowel contrasts for L1 Spanish learners of English. Future research must explore ways to analyze L2 speech perception that do not rely exclusively on vowel assimilation patterns.


Social Networking:
Share |


Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Jeske, Andrewarj36@pitt.eduARJ36
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairOrtega-Llebaria, Martamao61@pitt.eduMAO61
Committee MemberJuffs, Alanjuffs@pitt.eduJUFFS
Committee MemberMauk, Claudecemauk@pitt.eduCEMAUK
Date: 19 September 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 30 April 2012
Approval Date: 19 September 2012
Submission Date: 27 July 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 67
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Linguistics
Degree: MA - Master of Arts
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: English vowels, Spanish vowels, perception, PAM-L2
Date Deposited: 19 Sep 2012 14:59
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:00


Monthly Views for the past 3 years

Plum Analytics

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item