Second language acquisition of a regional dialect of American English by native Japanese speakers

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Much research, including a wealth of studies by James Emil Flege, has examined the nature of the acquisition of English by non-native speakers. However, the vast majority of these studies have concentrated on the acquisition of Standard American English (SAE) rather than on the acquisition of a regional dialect. This paper examines whether regional dialectal differences found in the vowel systems of Southern American English (SoAE) and SAE are produced and perceived by adult Japanese speakers residing in these two areas. A production study demonstrated that the vowels produced by native English speakers from Alabama and Ohio were consistent with their dialectal region. However the two groups of native Japanese speakers produced vowels that were much more like those of the Ohio English speakers and showed few of the regional dialectal differences existing in SoAE. In a perception study, vowels produced by native Southern and Midwest English speakers were presented to two different groups of Japanese speakers living in these two areas in an identification task in order to observe the speakers’ sensitivity to these dialectal variations. Results indicated that exposure to the SoAE dialect did not improve the perception of SoAE vowels by Japanese speakers living in Alabama and that both groups of Japanese speakers performed significantly worse when identifying SoAE vowels.


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