Native Koreans’ voicing perception of English obstruents in VC position: Prosodic restructuring effects on consonant Identification.

Park, H. (Department of Linguistics, Indiana University) and de Jong, K.J. (Departments of Linguistics and Cognitive Science, Indiana University)

322 Memorial Hall, 1021 E. 3rd St., Bloomington, Indiana 47405, USA hanypark-at-indiana.edu

Languages differ in the segments which are allowed in different prosodic locations. For example, Korean obstruents have a three way laryngeal contrast in initial and intervocalic position but no such contrasts in final position. English, however, has the same number of laryngeal contrasts in initial and final position. When the existence of segmental contrasts and prosodic location interact, two approaches are available to the second language learner; either to undo the neutralization and acquire the new contrast, or to reparse the prosodic structure, placing the contrast in a different prosodic location. Here, Korean learners of English could obviate final neutralization by reinterpreting final consonants as the initial consonant to a following syllable. To determine whether such prosodic reanalysis strategies might exist, 20 college-age inexperienced Korean learners of English were presented with American English labial and coronal obstruents in CV and VC nonsense words and were asked to perform two tasks: 1) consonant identification and 2) syllable counting. Listeners were tested in Korea. As in previous research (Lim, 2003), listeners often parsed the VC stimuli as two syllables. For the voiceless consonants, this reparsing afforded better accuracy in consonant identification, as expected. However, for voiced consonants, the reverse was true; consonants in perceived disyllables were much more poorly identified than those in monosyllables. This effect appears to be due to the fact that the intervocalic contrast in Korean is allophonically different than that in initial position, placing the English final voiced consonants in the ‘voiceless’ category. These results demonstrate that L2 learners may use prosodic restructuring, but such a strategy is not necessarily useful. Thus, research in consonant identification must not only consider consonant categories on a position by position basis, it must also consider how listeners determine what position a consonant is in. [Work supported by the NIH and NSF.]