Adult phonetic learning of a second language vowel system

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A longitudinal study of the acquisition of English vowels by Brazilian Portuguese speakers provides evidence for the claim of Flege’s (1995) speech learning model (SLM) that phonetic learning is possible in adulthood, and further that the results of this learning are apparent even in the early stages and in the phonetic approximation of “similar” vowels. In addition to the expected link between certain L1 and interlanguage (IL) vowels, the study provides evidence for a link among the IL vowels themselves, which appear to undergo changes in relation to one another. The results suggest that any description of the phonetic representation of newly-formed IL categories should include their location within the phonetic space relative to the location of other L2 categories.


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