Perception of natural vowels by monolingual Canadian-English, Mexican-Spanish, and Penninsular-Spanish listeners

G. S. Morrison

Abstract


On the basis of a previously-reported synthetic-vowel perception experiment, it was hypothesized that the location of the perceptual boundary between Spanish /i/ and /e/ differed for monolingual Peninsular-Spanish and Mexican-Spanish listeners (north-central Spain and Mexico City), and that this would affect the perception of the Canadian-English /i/-/i/ contrast (western Canada): Peninsular-Spanish listeners were predicted to identify almost all tokens of Canadian-English /i/ as Spanish /i/ and almost all tokens of Canadian-English /i/ as Spanish /e/ (two-category assimilation); whereas Mexican-Spanish listeners were predicted to identify almost all tokens of Canadian-English /i/ as Spanish /i/, but identify some tokens of Canadian-English /i/ as Spanish /i/ and some as Spanish /e/. Monolingual Peninsular-Spanish and Mexi-can-Spanish listeners’ perception of natural tokens of English /i/, /i/, /e/, and /e/ produced by monolingual Canadian-English speakers was tested. Both the Peninsular-Spanish and the Mexican-Spanish listeners had results consistent with the perceptual pattern predicted for the Peninsular-Spanish listeners. The results call into question the assumption that first-language-Spanish learners of English have difficulty learning the English /i/-/i/ contrast because they initially assimilate most tokens of both English vowel categories to a single Spanish vowel category, Spanish /i/.

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