14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)
San Francisco, CA, USA
Speakers of Japanese (and other Asian languages) have trouble perceiving the American English (AE) /r/-/l/ "liquid" contrast. The difficulties they encounter are often explained by the specific structural contrasts of their native phonological systems, which do not include a phonemic distinction paralleling AE /r/- /l/. Accordingly, speakers of languages such as French which do possess that phonemic distinction should encounter little difficulty in perceiving the AE /r/-/l/ contrast. However, from an articulatory-phonetic standpoint, French and AE /r/s have little in common, suggesting that French listeners may have difficulty categorizing AE /r/s. The present study examined identification and discrimination of the AE continua /r-l/, /w-r/, and /w-j/ by French participants. French listeners did encounter difficulties with AE /r/, which they tended to hear as /w/-like. We propose that the detailed articulatory-phonetic properties of the sounds involved, not solely their abstract phonological status, account for the observed perceptual patterns.
Bibliographic reference. Hallé, Pierre-André / Best, Catherine T. / Levitt, Andrea (1999): "The perception of American English approximants by French native speakers", In ICPhS-14, 905-908.