Winifred Strange Sonja A. Trent Janet W. Stack Xiange Ling Alba I. Rodriguez
Dept. of Commun. Sci. and Disord., Univ. of South Florida, 4204 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL 33620-8150
Several current theories of L2 learning attempt to predict relative difficulties in learning to produce phonetic contrasts of a foreign language on the basis of the non-native phones' phonetic similarity to native phoneme categories. In this study, monolingual speakers of American English (AE) were asked to categorize (into AE vowel categories) instances of the 14 North German (NG) vowels and to judge their goodness-of-fit on a seven-point scale. Multiple tokens of each vowel were produced in /C-vowel-t/ syllables (where C=/b,d,g/) in a carrier sentence. Results indicated that both the proportion of assignments to particular AE categories and the goodness-of-fit ratings were influenced significantly by the initial consonantal context. While front rounded NG vowels were categorized more often overall as back rounded AE vowels than as front unrounded AE vowels, front unrounded responses were significantly greater for front rounded vowels in labial context than in alveolar and velar contexts. In addition, the categorization of several NG vowels indicated significant individual differences among subjects in categorization patterns. Implications of these findings for conceptualizations of native-language phonetic ``prototypes'' as discussed.