Native Italian speakers' perception and production of English vowels

Academic Article


  • This study examined the production and perception of English vowels by highly experienced native Italian speakers of English. The subjects were selected on the basis of the age at which they arrived in Canada and began to learn English, and how much they continued to use Italian. Vowel production accuracy was assessed through an intelligibility test in which native English-speaking listeners attempted to identify vowels spoken by the native Italian subjects. Vowel perception was assessed using a categorial discrimination test. The later in life the native Italian subjects began to learn English, the less accurately they produced and perceived English vowels. Neither of two groups of early Italian/English bilinguals differed significantly from native speakers of English either for production or perception. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis of the speech learning model [Flege, in Speech Perception and Linguistic Experience: Theoretical and Methodological Issues (York, Timonium, MD, 1995)] that early bilinguals establish new categories for vowels found in the second language (L2). The significant correlation observed to exist between the measures of L2 vowel production and perception is consistent with another hypothesis of the speech learning model, viz., that the accuracy with which L2 vowels are produced is limited by how accurately they are perceived.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Flege JE; MacKay IRA; Meador D
  • Start Page

  • 2973
  • End Page

  • 2987
  • Volume

  • 106
  • Issue

  • 5