ABSTRACT

This article examines the effects of native language (L1) phoneme inventory size and second language (L2) learning experience on adult learners’ perception of L2 sounds. Perception experiments compared the Korean vowel and coda identification accuracy of 28 English- and 28 Mandarin-speaking learners differing in their amount of university-level Korean language experience. The results showed that the English-speaking learners, whose L1 has a rich vowel and coda inventory, were better at identifying both Korean vowels and coda consonants compared to the Mandarin-speaking learners, who have a relatively small L1 vowel and coda inventory. These findings suggest that learners with a larger phoneme inventory have an advantage in the perception of L2 segments. In the case of L2 experience, results from segment identification tasks were less conclusive. Learners who had more L2 experience (i.e., more experience with the Korean language at a university level) performed better only in the vowel identification task compared to learners with less L2 experience. Results also showed no significant difference between more experienced versus less experienced learners in the case of coda identification. These outcomes indicate that learners’ L2 identification accuracy is influenced by the amount of their L2 experience but the presence and degree of this effect can differ depending on the type of L2 segment regardless of L1.

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