The acquisition of Swedish long vs. short vowel contrasts by native speakers of English, Spanish and Estonian  

Robert McAllister, James E. Flege* and Thorsten Piske^

*Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, Speech and Hearing, University of Alabama at Birmingham
^Department of English, Kiel University

Proceedings of the XIVth International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (1999): 751 - 754
(San Francisco, USA)  


This work addresses an important current issue in the field of second language speech acquisition. The main purpose of the experiments reported here has been to test a hypothesis about the influence of L1 phonology on the acquisition of contrastive L2 phonetic categories. This hypothesis holds that an L2 contrastive category will be difficult to acquire if it is based on a phonetic feature not exploited in the L1. Twenty native speakers each of American English, Latin American Spanish and Estonian as well as a control group of 20 native speakers of Swedish were given a a production and perception test to assess their mastery of the Swedish long-short vowel contrast. Our results support our hypothesis indicating that the success of learning the Swedish long-short vowel contrast seems to be related to the roll of the duration feature in the L1.

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