Perception of Non-Contrastive Variations in American English by Japanese Learners: Flaps are Less Favored Than Stops

Kiyoko Yoneyama, Mafuyu Kitahara, Keiichi Tajima


Alveolar flaps are non-contrastive allophonic variants of alveolar stops in American English. A lexical decision experiment was conducted with Japanese learners of English (JE) to investigate whether second-language (L2) learners are sensitive to such allophonic variations when recognizing words in L2. The stimuli consisted of 36 isolated bisyllabic English words containing word-medial /t/, half of which were flap-favored words, e.g. city, and the other half were [t]-favored words, e.g. faster. All stimuli were recorded with two surface forms: /t/ as a flap, e.g. city with a flap, or as [t], e.g. city with [t]. The stimuli were counterbalanced so that participants only heard one of the two surface forms of each word. The accuracy data indicated that flap-favored words pronounced with a flap, e.g. city with a flap, were recognized significantly less accurately than flap-favored words with [t], e.g. city with [t], and [t]-favored words with [t], e.g. faster with [t]. These results suggest that JE learners prefer canonical forms over frequent forms produced with context-dependent allophonic variations. These results are inconsistent with previous studies that found native speakers’ preference for frequent forms, and highlight differences in the effect of allophonic variations on the perception of native-language and L2 speech.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-207

Cite as: Yoneyama, K., Kitahara, M., Tajima, K. (2017) Perception of Non-Contrastive Variations in American English by Japanese Learners: Flaps are Less Favored Than Stops. Proc. Interspeech 2017, 359-363, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-207.


@inproceedings{Yoneyama2017,
  author={Kiyoko Yoneyama and Mafuyu Kitahara and Keiichi Tajima},
  title={Perception of Non-Contrastive Variations in American English by Japanese Learners: Flaps are Less Favored Than Stops},
  year=2017,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2017},
  pages={359--363},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2017-207},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2017-207}
}