Dynamic Targets in the Acquisition of L2 English Vowels

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Abstract

This paper presents acoustic data on the dynamic properties of the FLEECE and TRAP vowels in the speech of two groups of Polish users of English. Results reveal that the more proficient group users, made up of teachers and professors with professional-level proficiency in English, produce more dramatic patterns of formant movement, reminiscent of native productions, than first year students. It is argued that vowel inherent spectral change (VISC) is an inherent aspect of English phonology, originated in interactions between vowels and neighboring consonants, and later generalized to the vowel system as a whole. By contrast, Polish is a language with a minimal role of VISC. Consequently, successful acquisition of L2 English vowels involves not only the mastery of vowels in F1- F2 space, but also formant trajectories over time.

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