Challenges in the perception of L2 English phonemes by native speakers of Cypriot Greek

Kkese, Elena (2021) Challenges in the perception of L2 English phonemes by native speakers of Cypriot Greek. Journal of Monolingual and Bilingual Speech, 3 (1). ISSN 2631-8407

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Research into non-native speech perception performance suggests that adults encounter difficulties discriminating segmental distinctions that are not used contrastively in their first language. Current theoretical models suggest that these difficulties are related to the acquisition of a native speech system but diverge in whether the perceptual mechanisms operate on acoustic or articulatory information. The present research addresses: (1) the difficulties Cypriot Greek (CGR) listeners of L2 English encounter with English vowels and consonants, and (2) the effect of extra-linguistic (i.e. age, gender, years of learning L2 English, educational setting, age of onset, reported use in the L2, visits to English-speaking countries) and linguistic factors (word frequency, word length, syllable number) on the perception of vowels and consonants in L2 English. A task involving two discrimination tests assessed native CGR listeners’ perception of English contrasts for vowels and consonants. Overall, listeners performed slightly better when dealing with consonants compared to vowels, significant effects have been reported. Concerning the examined factors, age, gender, years of L2 instruction, and years of experience have been reported to have significant effects, especially on speech perception of consonants. Specifically, the findings suggest that acoustic cues such as voicing and vowel length, which are relevant for native speakers of English, may not be for non-native speakers, in this case for CGR L1 speakers.

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