The identification of Korean vowels /o/ and /u/ by native English speakers

Oh, Eunhae

  • Received : 2016.02.02
  • Accepted : 2016.03.22
  • Published : 2016.03.31


The Korean high back vowels /o/ and /u/ have been reported to be in a state of near-merger especially among young female speakers. Along with cross-generational changes, the vowel position within a word has been reported to render different phonetic realization. The current study examines native English speakers' ability to attend to the phonetic cues that distinguish the two merging vowels and the positional effects (word-initial vs. word-final) on the identification accuracy. 28 two-syllable words containing /o/ or /u/ in either initial or final position were produced by native female Korean speakers. The CV part of each target word were excised and presented to six native English speakers. The results showed that although the identification accuracy was the lowest for /o/ in word- final position (41%), it increased up to 80% in word-initial position. The acoustic analyses of the target vowels showed that /o/ and /u/ were differentiated on the height dimension only in word-initial position, suggesting that English speakers may have perceived the distinctive F1 difference retained in the prominent position.


non-native speech perception;Korean vowel merger;positional effects;L2 vowel identification


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