Cross-Language Perception of Japanese Vowel Length Contrasts: Comparison of Listeners From Different First Language Backgrounds Purpose The purpose of this research was to compare the perception of Japanese vowel length contrasts by 4 groups of listeners who differed in their familiarity with length contrasts in their first language (L1; i.e., American English, Italian, Japanese, and Thai). Of the 3 nonnative groups, native Thai listeners were ... Research Article
Research Article  |   June 01, 2014
Cross-Language Perception of Japanese Vowel Length Contrasts: Comparison of Listeners From Different First Language Backgrounds
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Kimiko Tsukada
    Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  • Yukari Hirata
    Colgate University, Hamilton, NY
  • Rungpat Roengpitya
    Mahidol University, Bangkok, Thailand
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.×
  • Correspondence to Kimiko Tsukada: Kimiko.Tsukada@mq.edu.au
  • Editor: Jody Kreiman
    Editor: Jody Kreiman×
  • Associate Editor: Ewa Jacewicz
    Associate Editor: Ewa Jacewicz×
Article Information
Cultural & Linguistic Diversity / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Speech / Research Articles
Research Article   |   June 01, 2014
Cross-Language Perception of Japanese Vowel Length Contrasts: Comparison of Listeners From Different First Language Backgrounds
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2014, Vol. 57, 805-814. doi:10.1044/2014_JSLHR-S-12-0416
History: Received December 26, 2012 , Revised July 19, 2013 , Accepted October 30, 2013
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, June 2014, Vol. 57, 805-814. doi:10.1044/2014_JSLHR-S-12-0416
History: Received December 26, 2012; Revised July 19, 2013; Accepted October 30, 2013
Web of Science® Times Cited: 1

Purpose The purpose of this research was to compare the perception of Japanese vowel length contrasts by 4 groups of listeners who differed in their familiarity with length contrasts in their first language (L1; i.e., American English, Italian, Japanese, and Thai). Of the 3 nonnative groups, native Thai listeners were expected to outperform American English and Italian listeners, because vowel length is contrastive in their L1. Native Italian listeners were expected to demonstrate a higher level of accuracy for length contrasts than American English listeners, because the former are familiar with consonant (but not vowel) length contrasts (i.e., singleton vs. geminate) in their L1.

Method A 2-alternative forced-choice AXB discrimination test that included 125 trials was administered to all the participants, and the listeners' discrimination accuracy (d′) was reported.

Results As expected, Japanese listeners were more accurate than all 3 nonnative groups in their discrimination of Japanese vowel length contrasts. The 3 nonnative groups did not differ from one another in their discrimination accuracy despite varying experience with length contrasts in their L1. Only Thai listeners were more accurate in their length discrimination when the target vowel was long than when it was short.

Conclusion Being familiar with vowel length contrasts in L1 may affect the listeners' cross-language perception, but it does not guarantee that their L1 experience automatically results in efficient processing of length contrasts in unfamiliar languages. The extent of success may be related to how length contrasts are phonetically implemented in listeners' L1.

Acknowledgments
This study was funded by the Macquarie University (MQ) New Staff Grant (Reference No. 9200800377), MQ Research Development Grant (Reference No. 9200900585), to Kimiko Tsukada. Part of the data collection was conducted while Kimiko Tsukada was affiliated as Research Associate in the Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures, Colgate University, during her Outside Studies Program. The authors thank Yoshito Hirozane (Mejiro University), Nejimeh Habib, and Chris Callaghan (Macquarie University); Kaori Idemaru and Lucy Gibbens (University of Oregon); and Jim Flege for subject recruitment and the use of their offices and laboratories. The authors also thank the participants, who represented diverse language backgrounds. Portions of this study were presented at the Second Language Acquisition of Phonology (SLP2012) at the University of York, United Kingdom, and the 14th Australasian International Conference on Speech Science and Technology at Macquarie University, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, in 2012. The authors gratefully acknowledge valuable input from the audience at these conferences.
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