15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Perception of Vowel Length in Native Speakers and Second-Language Users of a Quantity Language

Sari Nenonen (1), Anna Shestakova (1), Paavo Alku (2), Minna Huotilainen (1)

(1) University of Helsinki, Finland
(2) Helsinki University of Technology, Finland

In the Finnish language, there is a phonological opposition between short and long sounds. Second-language (L2) users of Finnish, whose native language does not include this distinction, often find it difficult to acquire. We compared the categorization of short and long speech sounds in school-aged L2 users and native speakers of Finnish. Two pseudoword continua with vowel durations varying from short to long either in the word-initial or word-final position were used as stimuli. The results showed that the categorization was similar in both groups in the first-syllable position, but, in the word-final position, the category boundary was crossed with shorter durations in the L2 users. In both conditions, the reaction times were shorter in the native speakers than in the L2 users. We suggest that phonological categories for short and long sounds are established in L2 users, but the categorization is still faster in native speakers, as indicated by the reaction times.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Nenonen, Sari / Shestakova, Anna / Alku, Paavo / Huotilainen, Minna (2003): "Perception of vowel length in native speakers and second-language users of a quantity language", In ICPhS-15, 531-534.