The Effect of Linguistic Experience on Arabs' Perception of the English /s/ vs. /z/ Contrast

Academic Article


  • This study addresses the issue of whether the perception of L2 speech sounds evolves during the course of naturalistic L2 acquisition by adults. Synthetic speech stimuli were presented to three subject groups for forced choice identification as “piece” or “peas”: (1) monolingual speakers of American English; (2) relatively inexperienced Arab speakers of English; and (3) experienced Arabs. The experienced Arabs responded much like the Americans. They showed sharp increases in /z/ responses as vowel duration increased; as fricative duration decreased; and as vowel and fricative duration was inversely modified in the same CVC stimulus. The inexperienced Arabs resembled the American subjects on only 2 stimulus continua. They inconsistently labelled stimuli in which just final fricative duration was varied, probably because there is no temporal difference between word-final /s/ and /z/ in Arabic. It thus appears that the temporal difference distinguishing /s/ from /z/ in English but not Arabic words acquired perceptual salience for the more experienced of the two groups of Arab L2 learners. © Mouton Publishers
  • Authors

    Published In

  • Folia Linguistica  Journal
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Flege JE
  • Start Page

  • 117
  • End Page

  • 138
  • Volume

  • 18
  • Issue

  • 1-2