14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)
San Francisco, CA, USA
Japanese listeners have difficulty in perceiving the English /r/-/l/ contrast. Is the difficulty due to the absence of a parallel phonemic contrast in Japanese? In this paper, we examined whether Japanese also encounter difficulties in processing the French /r/-/l/ contrast. Japanese listeners with a limited exposure to French encountered little qualitative difficulty, compared to French, in discriminating French /r/-/l/ in natural stimuli. In an open-response identification test, Japanese consistently interpreted the French /l/s but not /r/s as a Japanese /r/, applying various transcriptions to French /r/s. This pattern was clearest for Japanese with no exposure at all to French. The identification data were consistent overall with the discrimination data: those items that were difficult to discriminate often received identical transcriptions. The results suggest that perception of non-native contrasts is partly determined by the detailed phonetic properties of the sounds involved, not solely by the specific structure of the native phonological system.
Bibliographic reference. Yamasaki, Hidéko / Hallé, Pierre-André (1999): "How do native speakers of Japanese discriminate and categorize French /r/ and /l/?", In ICPhS-14, 909-912.