Volume 5, Issue 1
  • ISSN 2215-1931
  • E-ISSN: 2215-194X
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes



Nonnative (L2) English learners are often assumed to exhibit greater speech production variability than native (L1) speakers; however, support for this assumption is primarily limited to secondary observations rather than having been the specific focus of empirical investigations. The present study examined intra-speaker variability associated with L2 English learners’ tense and lax vowel productions to determine whether they showed comparable or greater intra-speaker variability than native English speakers. First and second formants of three tense/lax vowel pairs were measured, and Coefficient of Variation was calculated for 10 native speakers of American English and 30 nonnative speakers. The L2 speakers’ vowel formants were found to be native-like approximately half of the time. Whether their formants were native-like or not, however, they seldom showed greater intra-speaker variability than the L1 speakers.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Adank, P., Smits, R., & van Hout, R.
    (2004) A comparison of vowel normalization procedures for language variation research. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 116, 3099–3107. 10.1121/1.1795335
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.1795335 [Google Scholar]
  2. Baese-Berk, M., & Morrill, T. H.
    (2015) Speaking rate consistency in native and non-native speakers of English. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 138, 223–228. 10.1121/1.4929622
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4929622 [Google Scholar]
  3. Baker, R. E., Baese-Berk, M., Bonnasse-Gahot, L., Kim, M., Van Engen, K. J., & Bradlow, A. R.
    (2011) Word durations in non-native English. Journal of Phonetics, 39, 1–17. 10.1016/j.wocn.2010.10.006
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2010.10.006 [Google Scholar]
  4. Best, C. T.
    (1995) A direct realist perspective on cross-language speech perception. InW. Strange (Ed.), Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research (pp.167–200). Timonium, MD: York Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  5. Boersma, P., & Weenink, D.
    (2012) Praat: doing phonetics by computer [Computer program, version 5.3.23], retrieved fromwww.praat.org/
  6. Bohn, O.-S., & Flege, J. E.
    (1992) The production of new and similar vowels by adult German Learners of English. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 14, 131–158. 10.1017/S0272263100010792
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263100010792 [Google Scholar]
  7. Bond, Z. S., & Moore, T. J.
    (1994) A note on the acoustic-phonetic characteristics of inadvertently clear speech. Speech Communication, 14, 325–337. 10.1016/0167‑6393(94)90026‑4
    https://doi.org/10.1016/0167-6393(94)90026-4 [Google Scholar]
  8. Bongaerts, T.
    (1999) Ultimate attainment in L2 pronunciation: The case of very advanced late L2 learners. InD. Birdsong (Ed.), Second language acquisition and the critical period hypothesis (pp.133–158). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    [Google Scholar]
  9. Bosch, L., & Ramon-Casas, M.
    (2011) Variability in vowel production by bilingual speakers: Can input properties hinder the early stabilization of contrastive categories?Journal of Phonetics, 39, 514–526. 10.1016/j.wocn.2011.02.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2011.02.001 [Google Scholar]
  10. Bradlow, A. R.
    (1995) A comparative acoustic study of English and Spanish vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 97, 1916–1924. 10.1121/1.412064
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.412064 [Google Scholar]
  11. Bradlow, A. R., & Bent, T.
    (2002) The clear speech effect for non-native listeners. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 112, 272–284. 10.1121/1.1487837
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.1487837 [Google Scholar]
  12. Cebrian, J.
    (2006) Experience and the use of non-native duration in L2 vowel categorization. Journal of Phonetics, 34, 372–387. 10.1016/j.wocn.2005.08.003
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2005.08.003 [Google Scholar]
  13. Chang, D., & Weng, C.
    (2013) Late ESL learners’ difficulties of distinction between lax and tense vowels. InJ. Levis and K. LeVelle (Eds.). Proceedings of the 4th Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference (pp.129–139). Ames, IA: Iowa State University.
    [Google Scholar]
  14. Cook, V.
    (2015) Where is the native speaker now?TESOL Quarterly, 50, 186–189. 10.1002/tesq.286
    https://doi.org/10.1002/tesq.286 [Google Scholar]
  15. Ferguson, S. H.
    (2004) Talker differences in clear and conversational speech: Vowel intelligibility for normal-hearing listeners. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 116, 2365–2373. 10.1121/1.1788730
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.1788730 [Google Scholar]
  16. Flege, J. E.
    (1995) Second language speech learning: Theory, findings, and problems. InW. Strange (Ed.), Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research (pp.233–277). Timonium, MD: York Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Flege, J. E., & Hillenbrand, J.
    (1984) Limits on accuracy in foreign language speech production. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 76, 708–721. 10.1121/1.391257
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.391257 [Google Scholar]
  18. Flege, J. E., MacKay, I. R. A., & Meador, D.
    (1999) Native Italian speakers’ perception and production of English vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 106, 2973–2987. 10.1121/1.428116
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.428116 [Google Scholar]
  19. Flege, J. E., Munro, M. J., & MacKay, I. R. A.
    (1995) Factors affecting strength of perceived foreign accent in a second language. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 97, 3125–3134. 10.1121/1.413041
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.413041 [Google Scholar]
  20. Flege, J. E., Schirru, C., & MacKay, I. R. A.
    (2003) Interaction between the native and second language phonetic subsystems. Speech Communication, 40, 467–491. 10.1016/S0167‑6393(02)00128‑0
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0167-6393(02)00128-0 [Google Scholar]
  21. Goldinger, S. D., & Azuma, T.
    (2003) Puzzle-solving science: The quixotic quest for units in speech perception. Journal of Phonetics, 31, 305–320. 10.1016/S0095‑4470(03)00030‑5
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S0095-4470(03)00030-5 [Google Scholar]
  22. Hattori, K., & Iverson, P.
    (2009) English /r/ – /l/ category assimilation by Japanese adults: Individual differences and the link to identification accuracy. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 125, 469–479. 10.1121/1.3021295
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.3021295 [Google Scholar]
  23. Hillenbrand, J., Getty, L. A., Clark, M. J., & Wheeler, K.
    (1995) Acoustic characteristics of American English vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 97, 3099–3111. 10.1121/1.411872
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.411872 [Google Scholar]
  24. Jia, G., Strange, W., Wu, Y., Collado, J., & Guan, Q.
    (2006) Perception and production of English vowels by Mandarin speakers: age-related differences vary with amount of L2 exposure. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 119, 1118–1130. 10.1121/1.2151806
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.2151806 [Google Scholar]
  25. Kartushina, N., & Frauenfelder, U. H.
    (2014) On the effects of L2 perception and of individual differences in L1 production on L2 pronunciation. Frontiers in Psychology, 5, 1246. 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01246
    https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01246 [Google Scholar]
  26. Koenig, L. L., Lucero, J. C., & Perlman, E.
    (2008) Speech production variability in fricatives of children and adults: Results of functional data analysis. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 124, 3158–3170. 10.1121/1.2981639
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.2981639 [Google Scholar]
  27. Kondaurova, M. V., & Francis, A. L.
    (2008) The relationship between native allophonic experience with vowel duration and perception of the English tense/lax vowel contrast by Spanish and Russian listeners. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 124, 3959–3971. 10.1121/1.2999341
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.2999341 [Google Scholar]
  28. Larsen-Freeman, D.
    (2006) The emergence of complexity, fluency, and accuracy in the oral and written production of five Chinese learners of English. Applied Linguistics, 27, 590–619. 10.1093/applin/aml029
    https://doi.org/10.1093/applin/aml029 [Google Scholar]
  29. Lotto, A., Sato, M., & Diehl, R. L.
    (2004) Mapping the task for the second language learner: The case of the Japanese acquisition of /r/ and /l/. InJ. Slifka, S. Manuel, and M. Matthies (Eds.), From sound to sense: 50+ years of discoveries in speech communication (pp.181–186). Cambridge MA: MIT Press.
    [Google Scholar]
  30. Moyer, A.
    (1999) Ultimate attainment in L2 phonology. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 21, 81–108. 10.1017/S0272263199001035
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S0272263199001035 [Google Scholar]
  31. Piske, T., MacKay, I. R. A., & Flege, J. E.
    (2001) Factors affecting degree of foreign accent in an L2: A review. Journal of Phonetics, 29, 191–215. 10.1006/jpho.2001.0134
    https://doi.org/10.1006/jpho.2001.0134 [Google Scholar]
  32. Peterson, G. E., & Barney, H. L.
    (1952) Control methods used in a study of the vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 24, 175–184. 10.1121/1.1906875
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.1906875 [Google Scholar]
  33. Rallo Fabra, L., & Romero, J.
    (2012) Native Catalan learners’ perception and production of English vowels. Journal of Phonetics, 40, 491–508. 10.1016/j.wocn.2012.01.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2012.01.001 [Google Scholar]
  34. Romeo, R., Hazan, V., & Pettinato, M.
    (2013) Developmental and gender-related trends of intra-talker variability in consonant production. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 134, 3781–3792. 10.1121/1.4824160
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.4824160 [Google Scholar]
  35. Schertz, J., Cho, T., Lotto, A., & Warner, N.
    (2015) Individual differences in phonetic cue use in production and perception of a nonnative sound contrast. Journal of Phonetics, 52, 183–204. 10.1016/j.wocn.2015.07.003
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2015.07.003 [Google Scholar]
  36. Seddoh, S. A. K., Robin, D. A., Hageman, C., Sim, H.-S., Moon, J. B., & Folkins, J. W.
    (1996) Temporal control in apraxia of speech: an acoustic investigation of token-to-token variability. Clinical Aphasiology, 24, 65–81.
    [Google Scholar]
  37. Sharkey, S. G., & Folkins, J. W.
    (1985) Variability of lip and jaw movements in children and adults: Implications for the development of speech motor control. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 28, 8–15. 10.1044/jshr.2801.08
    https://doi.org/10.1044/jshr.2801.08 [Google Scholar]
  38. Slevc, L. R., & Miyake, A.
    (2006) Individual differences in second-language proficiency: Does musical ability matter?Psychological Science, 17, 675–681. 10.1111/j.1467‑9280.2006.01765.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9280.2006.01765.x [Google Scholar]
  39. Smith, A.
    (2006) Speech motor development: Integrating muscles, movements, and linguistic units. Journal of Communication Disorders, 39, 331–349. 10.1016/j.jcomdis.2006.06.017
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcomdis.2006.06.017 [Google Scholar]
  40. Smith, B. L.
    (2000) Variations in temporal patterns of speech production among speakers of English. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 108, 2438–2442. 10.1121/1.1290514
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.1290514 [Google Scholar]
  41. Smith, B. L., Hayes-Harb, R., Bruss, M., & Harker, A.
    (2009) Production and perception of voicing and devoicing in similar German and English word pairs by native speakers of German. Journal of Phonetics, 37, 257–275. 10.1016/j.wocn.2009.03.001
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2009.03.001 [Google Scholar]
  42. Strange, W., Weber, A., Levy, E. S., Shafiro, V., & Hisagi, M.
    (2007) Acoustic variability within and across German, French, and American English vowels: Phonetic context effects. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 122, 3728–3737. 10.1121/1.2749716
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.2749716 [Google Scholar]
  43. Syrdal, A. K. and Gopal, H. S.
    (1986) A perceptual model of vowel recognition based on the auditory representation of American English vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 79, 1086–1100. 10.1121/1.393381
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.393381 [Google Scholar]
  44. Thomas, E. R. and Kendall, T.
    (2007) NORM: The vowel normalization and plotting suite. [Online Resource: ncslaap.lib.ncsu.edu/tools/norm/]
  45. Tingley, B. M., & Allen, G. D.
    (1975) Development of speech timing control in children. Child Development, 46, 186–194. 10.2307/1128847
    https://doi.org/10.2307/1128847 [Google Scholar]
  46. Verspoor, M., Lowie, W. & Van Dijk, M.
    (2008) Variability in second language development from a dynamic systems perspective. The Modern Language Journal, 92, 214–231. 10.1111/j.1540‑4781.2008.00715.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-4781.2008.00715.x [Google Scholar]
  47. Wade, T., Jongman, A., & Sereno, J.
    (2007) Effects of acoustic variability in the perceptual learning of nonnative-accented speech sounds. Phonetica, 64, 122–144. 10.1159/000107913
    https://doi.org/10.1159/000107913 [Google Scholar]
  48. Warner, N., & Tucker, B. V.
    (2011) Phonetic variability of stops and flaps in spontaneous and careful speech. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 130, 1606–1617. 10.1121/1.3621306
    https://doi.org/10.1121/1.3621306 [Google Scholar]
  49. Witteman, M. J., Weber, A., & McQueen, J. M.
    (2014) Tolerance for inconsistency in foreign-accented speech. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21(2), 512–519. 10.3758/s13423‑013‑0519‑8
    https://doi.org/10.3758/s13423-013-0519-8 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): intra-speaker variability; L2 vowel production; speech acoustics
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error