L2 | phonetics & phonology | research | 1977-1989

Articles 1977-1989
Flege, J. (1989). Differences in inventory size affects the location but not the
precision of tongue positioning in vowel production.
Language & Speech, 32,

Flege, J. (1989). Chinese subjects' perception of the word-final English /t/-/d/
contrast: Performance before and after training.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of
, 86, 1684-1697.

Flege, J. (1989). Using visual information to train foreign language vowel production.
Language Learning, 38, 365-407.

Flege, J. & Bohn, O.-S. (1989). An instrumental study of vowel reduction and stress
placement in Spanish-accented English.
Studies in Second Language Acquisition,
11, 35-62.

Flege, J. (1988). The development of skill in producing word-final /p/ and /b/:
Kinematic parameters.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 84, 1639-1652.

Flege, J. (1988). Factors affecting degree of perceived foreign accent in English
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 84, 70-79.

Flege, J. (1988). Effects of speaking rate on tongue position and velocity of
movement in vowel production.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 84,

Flege, J. (1988). Anticipatory and carry-over nasal coarticulation the speech of
children and adults.
Journal of Speech & Hearing Research, 31, 525-536.
Articles dealing with second-language (L2) speech learning published by
James Emil Flege & colleagues in journals between the years 1977-1989.
Flege, J., McCutcheon, M., & Smith, S. (1987). The development of skill in producing word-final English stops.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 82, 433-447.

Flege, J. (1987). A critical period for learning to pronounce foreign languages? Applied Linguistics, 8, 162-177.

Flege, J. & Eefting, W. (1987). The production and perception of English stops by Spanish speakers of English.
Journal of Phonetics, 15, 67-83.

Flege, J. (1987). The production of "new" and "similar" phones in a foreign language: Evidence for the effect of
equivalence classification.
Journal of Phonetics, 15, 47-65.

Flege, J., Fletcher, S., McCutcheon, M., & Smith, S. (1986). The physiological specification of American English
Language & Speech, 29, 361-388.

Flege, J. & Eefting, W. (1986). Linguistic and developmental effects on the production and perception of stop
Phonetica, 43, 155-171.

Flege, J. & Hillenbrand, J. (1986). Differential use of temporal cues to the [s-z] contrast by native and
non-native speakers of English.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 79, 508-517.

Flege, J. & Davidian, R. (1984). Transfer and developmental processes in adult foreign language speech
Applied Psycholinguistics, 5, 323-347.

Flege, J. (1984). The effect of linguistic experience on Arabs' perception of the English /s/ vs. /z/ contrast. Folia
, 18, 117-138.
Flege, J. (1980). Phonetic approximation in second language acquisition. Language Learning, 30, 117-134.

Flege, J. (1977). Generative phonology and psychological reality. Language Sciences, 48, 17-22.
Flege, J. & Eefting, W. (1987). Cross-language switching in stop consonant production and perception by
Dutch speakers of English.
Speech Communication, 6, 185-202.
Flege, J. & Hillenbrand, J. (1987). Differential use of closure voicing and release burst as cue to stop voicing by
native speakers of French and English.
Journal of Phonetics, 15, 203-208.

Summary: The cross-language perception experiment reported here examined the identification of word-final
stops as voiced or voicless. The stimuli were naturally produced tokens of /pVg/ words from which the closure
voicing of the final stop was progressively removed in two continua. In these continua the final release burst
was left intact; in two other continua, however, the final release burst were removed.

Both French and English use the duration of the preceding vowel and the presence of glottal pulsing in the
closure interval of final stops as cue to the voiced-voicless distinction. The motivation for this research was the
fact that word-final stops are produced more frequently with audible release bursts in French than English.

The results indicated that, for both French and English monolinguals (n = 15 per group) the percentage of
identification of the final stop as /g/ decreased as progressively more glottal pulsing was removed. For the
native English speakers, the cross-over from predominantly /g/ to /k/ responses was unaffected by the
presence vs. absence of the final release bursts. For the French monolinguals, however, more glottal pulsing
had to be removed to effect a cross-over from predominantly /g/ to /k/ responses in the burst-intact than in the
no-burst continua.
Summary: This is one of two articles drawn from my 1979 PhD dissertation at Indiana University in
Bloomington, Indiana. Robert F. Port was my dissertation advisor.

The point of departure for the study was my observation that native Arabic students on campus had
tremendous difficulty in producing /p/, the one English stop consonant absent from their L1 phonological
inventory. The primary aims of the study were to determine (a) if the phonetic characteristics of Arabic stops
would transfer into English and (b) how the Saudis would produce the "new" English consonant, /p/.

In Exp. 1, Arabic words beginning and ending with /t k b d g/ were recorded and then measured acoustically
from spectrograms. The participants were six adult male native speakers of Saudi Arabian Arabic who were
currently residing in Bloomington. Exp 2 examined the production of /p t k/ and /b d g/ in the initial and final
position of English words by six Saudi each who differed according to length of residence in Bloomington (M
= 8 vs. 36 months).

Despite the small sample sizes, the influence of the L1 on the production of word-initial and word-final English
stops was clearly evident in measures of speech timing (i.e., the duration of vowels and stop closure
intervals). This held true for the English stops that were "similar" to an L1 stop (/t k b d g/ as well as for the
"new" English /p/.

Perhaps the most interesting finding of this modest dissertation for word-initial stops was the observation of
unnecessary stop closure duration differences between voiced and voiceless stops. The temporal distinction
evident in the production of English /t/-/d/ and /k/-/g/ by the Saudis could be considered an instance of
cross-language phonetic transfer (or "interference") given that similar differences were evident in Arabic
(Exp. 1). The fact that an exaggerated distinction was evident for English /p/-/b/ could not, however, be
regarded as transfer inasmuch as there is no /p/ in Arabic.  

An opposite pattern of temporal differences was evident for word-final stops. Here, the L1 lacks the temporal
differences between voiced and voiceless stops that exist in English. As a result, the Saudis produced much
smaller temporal differences than the native English speakers did.

Exp. 3 was a transcriptional analysis of the English stops produced by the 12 Saudis. Their word-initial /p/s
were heard correctly as /p/ in 77% of instances and incorrectly, as /b/, in 22% of instances. The errors were
attributed to the fact that VOT is somewhat shorter in Arabic than in English.

In word-final position, /p/ was heard correctly 50% of the time but as /b/ 49% of the time. The errors for
word-final /p/ were attributed ot the fact that the Saudis produced glottal pulsing that continued through at
least half of the stop closure in 63% of tokens (something never seen for the native English participants),
and for the production of relatively small or absent temporal differences.

From a theoretical perspective, the most important conclusion to be drawn from the dissertation regarded the
appropriate level of analysis in studies of L2 speech learning. The phonemic inventory of Arabic contains
stops differing in the voicing "feature" (/t/-/d/, /k/-/g/) as well as stops differing in a "place of articulation"
feature (/b/-/d/-/g/). However, the Saudis were not successful in recombining the two abstract linguistic
features in order to produce a perceptually effective English /p/.

From a phonological perspective, the voicing of word-final /p/ is illogical. First, it is physiologically easier, and
thus more "natural" (or"umarked") to produce voiceless than voiced stops in word final position. Second,
typological surveys reveal that it is not uncommon for languages to possess voiceless but not voiced stops in
word-final position whereas the opposite (as far as I know) never occurs. That being the case, problems
evident in L2 speech production might be regarded as having a primarily phonetic rather than phonological
Flege, J. & Brown, W., Jr. (1982). The voicing contrast between English /p/  and /b/ as a function of stress and
Journal of Phonetics, 10, 335-345.

Flege, J. (1982). Laryngeal timing and phonation onset in utterance-initial English stops. Journal of Phonetics,
10, 177-192.

Flege, J.E. (1981). The phonological basis of foreign accent. TESOL  Quarterly, 15, 443-455.

Flege, J. & Port, R. (1981). Cross-language phonetic interference: Arabic to English. Language & Speech, 24,
Flege, J. & Hammond, R. (1982). Mimicry of non-distinctive phonetic differences between language varieties.
Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 5, 1-18

Summary. When this research was carried out in 1980 it was widely believed that cross-language phonetic
differences are not accessible to L2 learners. The prevailing view was that differences in the realization of
sounds found in two languages will be filtered out, either not detected at a sensory level or, if detected, not
processed and/or stored in a way that could lead to an eventual modification of speech perception and/or
production. This article tested these "filtering" hypotheses using a foreign accent imitation task.

The 125 participants were students at the University of Florida taking a first-year Spanish class taught by one
over several native Spanish speakers of English. All of these instructors spoke English with a Spanish accent.
The students were asked to produce 21 English sentences of the form "The X is on the Y" with a Spanish
accent following an oral mid term exam administered in the University of Florida language lab. Some of the
variable test words inserted into the sentence frame began with /t/; others began or ended with consonants that
are often produced incorrectly by native Spanish learners of English.

The two authors transcribed initial and final consonants in test words spoken by 50 students who had all
indicated knowing people who spoke English with a Spanish accent and having lived in Florida for at least 5
years. The transcriptions revealed 509 "Spanish accent" segmental substitutions, for example, the test word
"vice" produced with an initial /b/ and "nose" produced with a word-final /s/. Importantly, the word-initial /t/
tokens were never transcribed as /d/.

The recordings of 20 students were subjected to instrumental analysis. The "Most Knowledge" (MK) group
consisted of the 10 students who had produced the largest number of Spanish-accent substitutions, the "Least
Knowledge" (LN) group the 10 students who had produced the fewest such substitutions. The authors inferred
that member of the MK group had received more exposure to Spanish accented English than those in group
LN. A Control Group was created by recording 10 students who read the 21 English sentences without special

The VOT in word-initial tokens of /t/ produced by the 30 students were then measured from spectrograms. The
three groups differed significantly (p < 001). The students in MK produced /t/ with significantly shorter VOT
values (mean = 45 ms) than students in the control group did (mean = 85 ms), whereas the students who had
demonstrated less knowledge of Spanish accented English (i.e. group LN) did not differ significantly from the
controls (mean = 59 ms).  

An inspection of frequency histograms revealed that many productions of English /t/ by the students imitating a
Spanish accent had VOT values that were intermediate to the short-lag VOT values typical for Spanish and the
long-lag VOT values typical for English. The transcriptional analysis suggested, however, that the intermediate
values were not the result of substituting a short-lag English /d/ for the long-lag English /t/.

The results supported the view that young adults do not "filter out" sub-segmental phonetic differences that
may distinguish two language varieties, in this case, the English produced by monolingual native speakers and
English spoken with a foreign accent by native speakers of Spanish. Many of the American students seem to
have been able not only to
detect differences between accented and non-accented English but also to store
and structure the detected information in long term memory. These are the essential capacities needed for L2
speech learning. Indeed, the findings are especially interesting inasmuch as the VOT differences between
native and Spanish-accented English are likely to be smaller than those that exist between the English and
Spanish spoken by monolingual native speakers.

Further research will be needed to determine the extent to which the capacities demonstrated here will
generalize to the population of adult L2 learners. Recall that only the students who had produced a relatively
large number of expected Spanish-accent substitution (e.g., saying "veil" as if it were "bale") significantly
shortened VOT in the direction of Spanish and Spanish-accented English. Perhaps the capacities noted here
are to be found only in portion of the general population, for example, persons endowed with relatively robust
phonological short term memory (PSTM), as discussed by
MacKay, Meador and Flege (2001).
Flege, J. & Hillenbrand, J. (1984). Limits on pronunciation accuracy in adult foreign language speech
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 76, 708-721.

Hillenbrand, J., Ingrisano, D., Smith, B., &  Flege, J. (1984). Perception of the voiced - voiceless contrast in
syllable-final stops.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 76, 18-28.

Flege, J. (1983). The influence of stress, position, and utterance length on the pressure characteristics of
English /p/ and /b/.
Journal of Speech & Hearing Research, 26, 111-118.

Flege, J. (1982). The effects of utterance position on English speech timing.  Phonetica, 39, 337-357.
Flege, J. (1984). The detection of French accent by American listeners. Journal of the Acoustical Society of
, 76, 692-707.

Summary: The English stimuli used for this series of 5 experiments were produced by native speakes of
English and French. The listeners' task was to decide which of two stimuli in a trial had been spoken by a
non-native (i.e., French) speaker. The experiments examined progressively shorter excerpts of speech: short
phrases (e.g., "two little girls"), whole syllables (/ti/, /tu/), single segments (/t/, /u/, /i/) and the first 30 msec
portion of /t/ (the "t-burst" stimuli). A chance level of response was 50%. The rate of correct responses by the
NE listeners decreased as the stimuli got shorter. However, a significantly above-chance level of response was
obtained in each experiment, even the final experiment examining the t-burst stimuli.

The study demonstrated how exquisitely sensitive listeners are to small departures from the norms of their
native language. The findings will come as no suprise to those who study L1 speech development. For
example, if children learning French and English as an L1 were unable to detect the small acoustic phonetic
differences distinguishing a dental from alveolar place of articulation -- a distinction not seen in many human
languages -- they would be unable to learn to produce the /t/ of their L1 in a completely native-like way. The
fact that the listeners in this study were adults suggests that such cross-language phonetic differences remain
accessible to L2 learners, even adults.
Flege, J., Fletcher, S. & Homeidan, A. (1988). Compensating for a bite-block in /s/ and /t/ production:
Palatographic, acoustic and perceptual data.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 83, 212-228.

Flege, J. (1987). The instrumental study of L2 speech production: Some methodological considerations.
Language Learning, 37, 285-296.
Flege, J., Fletcher, S. & Homeidan, A. (1988). Compensating for a bite-block in /s/ and /t/ production:
Palatographic, acoustic and perceptual data.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 83, 212-228.

Flege, J. (1987). The instrumental study of L2 speech production: Some methodological considerations.
Language Learning, 37, 285-296.
Flege, J., Fletcher, S. & Homeidan, A. (1988). Compensating for a bite-block in /s/ and /t/ production:
Palatographic, acoustic and perceptual data.
Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 83, 212-228.

Flege, J. (1987). The instrumental study of L2 speech production: Some methodological considerations.
Language Learning, 37, 285-296.
Flege, J. & Eefting, W. (1988). Imitation of a VOT continuum by native speakers of
English and Spanish: Evidence for phonetic category formation.
Journal of the
Acoustical Society of America
, 83, 729-740.

Abstract: Ss differing in age and/or linguistic experience imitated members of a voice
onset time (VOT) continuum ranging from /da/ to /ta/. The Ss' vocal responses did not
track in a linear manner the VOT values in the stimuli; they showed abrupt shifts
between two or three response modes. The location of some non-linearities in the
stimulus-response function corresponded to the location of phoneme boundaries
obtained in an identification experiment, suggesting that the Ss covertly classified the
stimuli before imitating them. Child and adult Spanish monolinguals generally produced
only lead and short-lag VOT responses whereas same-aged English monolinguals
tended to produce stops with short-lag or long-lag VOT. Bilingual Spanish-English
adults and children, on the other hand, produced stops with VOT values falling into all
three modal VOT ranges, which suggested they had established a new phonetic
ctegory for English /t/ alongside the one they established earlier in life for Spanish /t/.

Keywords: imitation, speech, L2, second language, Spanish, English, early learners,
late learners, production, perception, stop consonants, voiceless stops