Grace H. Yeni-Komshian
Dept. of Hear. and Speech Sci., Univ. of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
James E. Flege
Univ. of Alabama, Birmingham, AL 35233
This study examines pronunciation proficiency in a second language (L2) as a function of the age of (L2) acquisition. Accuracy of pronunciation of words and sentences produced by Korean--English bilinguals who began learning their L2 (English) between 2 and 24 years of age is reported. All subjects were born in Korea and had resided in the U.S. for at least 8 years. Their average age at the time of testing was about 24 years. The results are based on the subjects' accuracy of pronunciation of vowels and consonants in English words and sentences. Preliminary findings, regarding segmental phonemes, indicate no major difficulties up to about 11 years for L2 acquisition. Those who learned English (L2) at or later than 12 had significantly lower pronunciation accuracy scores. These difficulties were more evident in vowels than in consonants. The results support the critical period for language learning hypothesis. The discussion will address the problem of specifying the optimum conditions for second language acquisition and first language retention.