Therese I. Huber
Hong Wei Dou
Ernest M. Weiler
Joseph G. Agnello
Ml #379, Speech Sci. Lab., Communication Sci., Univ. of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221
Chinese and English differ considerably in the characteristics of the vowels. The present study focuses on acoustic characteristics of Chinese production of English vowels. The seven Chinese students in the present study had all been born in mainland China, and were students at the University of Cincinnati. All were enrolled in ESL (English as a second language) classes because of difficulties with English pronunciation. Two native English speakers were used to provide a comparative analysis, by minimal pairs, for formant placement of the vowels /i/, /I/, and others. A total of five English speakers phonetically transcribed the productions and tallied the data into a confusion matrix. The acoustic analysis, performed separately by five speech science students revealed systematic differences in the production of the vowels associated with the confusion. The Chinese first formant was lower and the second was higher than found for the midwestern English speakers. Insufficient reduction in frequency between minimal pairs was the source of auditory confusion. The application to ESL speech therapy will be discussed.