• A
  • A
  • A
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • ABC
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
  • А
Regular version of the site

Article

Perceptual confusions of American-English vowels and consonants by native Arabic bilinguals

Language and Speech. 2012. Vol. 56. No. 2. P. 145-161.
Shafiro V., Levy E., Khamis-Dakwar R., Kharkhurin A. V.

This study investigated the perception of American-English (AE) vowels and consonants by young adults who were either (a) early Arabic-English bilinguals whose native language was Arabic or (b) native speakers of the English dialects spoken in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where both groups were studying. In a closed-set format, participants were asked to identify 12 AE vowels presented in /hVd/ context and 20 AE consonants (C) in three vocalic contexts: /ɑCɑ/, /iCi/, and /uCu/. Both native Arabic and native English groups demonstrated high accuracy in identification of vowels (70 and 80% correct, respectively) and consonants (94 and 95% correct, respectively). For both groups, the least-accurately identified vowels were /ɑ/, /ɔ/, /æ/, while most consonant errors were found for /ð/, which was most frequently confused with /v/. However, for both groups, identification of /ð/ was vocalic-context dependent, with most errors occurring in /iCi/ context and fewest errors occurring in /uCu/ context. Lack of significant group differences suggests that speech sound identification patterns, including phonetic context effects for /ð/, were influenced more by the local English dialects than by listeners’ Arabic language background. The findings also demonstrate consistent perceptual error patterns among listeners despite considerable variation in their native and second language dialectal backgrounds.