Perception of English Vowels By Korean Learners: Comparisons between New and Similar L2 Vowel Categories

한국인 학습자의 영어 모음 인지: 새로운 L2 모음 범주와 비슷한 L2 모음 범주의 비교

  • 이계윤 (경기대학교 영어영문학과) ;
  • 초미희 (경기대학교 영어영문학과)
  • Received : 2015.06.19
  • Accepted : 2015.07.29
  • Published : 2015.08.28


The purpose of this study is to investigate how Korean learners perceive English vowels and further to test SLM which claims that new L2 vowel categories are more easily acquired than similar L2 vowel categories. Twenty Korean learners participated in English-to-Korean mapping test and English vowel identification test with target vowels /i, ɪ, u, ʊ, ɛ, æ/. The result revealed that Korean participants mapped the English pairs /i/-/ɪ/ and /u/-/ʊ/ onto single Korean vowel /i/ and /u/, respectively. in addition, both of English /ɛ/ and /æ/ were simultaneously mapped onto Korean /e/ and /ɛ/. This indicated that the Korean participants seemed to have perceptual difficulty for the pairs /i-ɪ/, /u-ʊ/, and /ɛ-æ/. The result of the forced-choice identification test showed that the accuracy of /ɪ, ʊ, æ/(ɪ: 81.3%, ʊ: 62.5%, æ: 60.0%) was significantly higher than that of /i, u, ɛ/(i: 28,8%, u: 28.8%, ɛ: 32.4%). Thus, the claim of SLM is confirmed given that /ɪ, ʊ, æ/ are new vowel categories whereas /i, u, ɛ/ are similar vowel categories. Further, the conspicuously low accuracy of the similar L2 vowel categories /i, u, ɛ/ was accounted for by over-generalization whereby the Korean participants excessively replaced L2 similar /i, u, ɛ/ with L2 new /ɪ, ʊ, æ/ as the participants were learning the L2 new vowel categories in the process of acquisition. Based on the findings this study, pedagogical suggestions are provided.


Vowel Perception;PAM;SLM;New/Similar Phonemes;Learning Pattern;L2 Vowel Acquisition


Supported by : 경기대학교 대학원


  1. J. E. Flege, O. S. Bohn, and S. Jang, "Effects of experience on nonnative speakers' production and perception of English vowels," Journal of Phonetics, Vol.25, pp.437-470, 1997.
  2. K. Tsukada, D. Birdsong, E. Bialystok, M. Mack, H. Sung, and J. Flege, "A developmental study of English vowel production and perception by native Korean adults and children," Journal of Phonetics, Vol.33, pp.263-290, 2005.
  3. S. Hong, "A relative perceptual easiness between perceptually assimilated vowels for university-level Korean learners of American English and measurement bias in an identification test," Phonology-Morphology Circle of Korea, Vol.18, No.3, pp.491-511, 2012.
  4. I. Hwang and S. Lee, "Perception of English Vowel Categories by Korean University Students," Korean Linguistics, Vol.37, No.4, pp.1095-1117. 2012.
  5. M. Celce-Murcia, D. M. Brinton, and J. M. Goodwin, Teaching pronunciation: A reference for teachers of English to speakers of other languages, Cambridge University Press, 1996.
  6. T. Best, A Direct Realist View of Cross-language Speech Perception, In W. Strange (ed.), Speech Perception and Linguistic Experience: Issues in Cross-Language Research, pp.171-204, Timonium, MD: York Press, 1995.
  7. T. Best and D. Tyler, "Nonnative and Second-language Speech Perception: Commonalities and Complementarities, In O-S. Bohn and M. Munro (eds.), Language Experience in Second Language Speech Learning: In Honor of J. E. Flege, pp.13-34. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2007
  8. J. E. Flege, "The Production of 'New' and 'Similar' Phones in a Foreign Language: Evidence for the Effect of Equivalence Classification," Journal of Phonetics, Vol.15, pp.47-65, 1987.
  9. J. E. Flege, Second Language Speech Learning: Theory, Findings and Problems, In W. Strange (ed.), Speech Perception and Linguistic Experience: Issues in Cross-Language Research, pp.233-272, Timonium, MD: York Press, 1995.
  10. D. J. Silva, "Phonological Mappings as Dynamic: The Evolving Contrastive Relationship Between English and Korean," Linguistic Research, Vol.21, pp.57-73, 2004.
  11. J. C. L. Ingram and S. G. Park, "Cross-language vowel perception and production by Japanese and Korean learners of English," Journal of Phonetics, Vol.25, pp.343-370, 1997.
  12. H. Park and K. J. de Jong, "Perceptual category mapping between English and Korean prevocalic obstruents: Evidence from mapping effects in second language identification skills," Journal of Phonetics, Vol.36, pp.704-723, 2008.
  13. J. I. Han, T. H. Choi, I. Lim, and J. K. Lee, "The Interlanguage Speech Intelligibility Benefit for Korean Learners of English: Perception of English Front Vowels," Korean Linguistics. Vol.3, No.2, pp.53-61, 2011.
  14. B. G. Yang, "A comparative study of American English and Korean vowels produced by male and female speaker," Journal of Phonetics, Vol.24, pp.245-261, 1996.
  15. J. Hillenbrand, L. A. Getty, M. J. Clark, and K. Wheeler, "Acoustic characteristics of American English Vowels," Journal of Acoustical Society of America, Vol.97, No.5, Pt.1, pp.3099-3111, 1995.
  16. J. Kahng, "The Effect of Pronunciation Training on Korean Adult Learners' Perception and Production of English Vowels, /i/, /I/, /u/, /$\mho$/, /$\varepsilon$/, /$\ae$/," Foreign Languages Education, Vol.13, No.1, pp.45-65, 2006.
  17. S. J. Kim, "Acquisition of English Vowels by Korean ESL Speakers: A Phonetic Approach," The Linguistic Association of Korea Journal, Vol.14, No.2, pp.1-16, 2006.
  18. 이주경, 이연우, "한국인 어학습자와 원어민의 긴장 및 이완 모음 발화이해도: 고모음을 중심으로," 음성음운형태론연구, 제17권, 제3호, pp.497-520, 2011.