Predictions for the Acquisition of American English Vowels by Native Russian Speakers
Ivanova, Sofia A.
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The purpose of this paper is to hypothesize the difficulties native speakers of Russian will have in the acquisition of American English monophthong vowels based on the predictions generated by the Speech Learning Model (SLM) (Flege 1987). The SLM predicts that considerably new L2 phones will be easier to acquire than phones which are similar to or overlap with existing L1 categories. Based on a comparison of the phonological features of the vowel systems of contemporary standard dialects of Russian and American English, for native Russian learners of English, the /i-ɪ/, /u-ʊ/, /ɛ-æ/, and /ɑ-ʌ/ contrasts are anticipated to be most challenging. A brief review of the literature on Russian learners’ perception and production of L2 English vowel contrasts supports these predictions, and adds insights into the acquisition of phonological distinctions in an L2. Future research should take care to account for regional variation in English vowels and compare L2 performance with the local norm, not a generalized standard.