Date of Award

5-1-2013

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Charkova, Dr. Krassimira

Abstract

The present study aims to investigate the production of the voiced labiodental fricative /v/ of Saudi Arabian speakers of English in view of linguistic and extra-linguistic factors. The linguistic aspect focuses on the role of the position of the sound in words, initial and final, and the distribution of errors per word in view of more and less familiar words. The extra-linguistic factors include participants' lengths of stay in the US and their ages and the potential influence these may have on the accuracy of pronouncing the target sound /v/. The total number of the subjects is 20 (10 male and 10 female), and their ages range between 20 and 35, with Mean age 27. Data is elicited through participants' reading of a word list with the target sound in initial and final position. The data coding is performed through spectrographic analysis and rater judgments. The analysis employs descriptive statistics, a dependent t-test used to compare production errors between initial and final position, and correlation analyses through which subjects' length of stay in the US and age are correlated with their total number of errors in both word positions. The findings show that word-final position is more difficult in pronouncing the phoneme /v/ than word-initial position. In addition, when the voiced labiodental fricative /v/ is mispronounced, it is substituted with the voiceless labiodental fricative /f/. Also, the correlation analysis shows that the longer the subjects have stayed in the USA, the more accurate their pronunciation of the target sound is (and vice versa). A significant correlation is also found between age and accuracy of pronunciation, as the younger subjects have more accurate pronunciation. The results of this study provide empirical evidence in support of several language acquisition theories, such as Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis (Lado, 1957), Markedness Differential Hypothesis (Eckman, 1977) and Language Transfer Theory (Gass & Selinker, 1994), all of which claim the influence of learners' first language on their second language. In the context of this study, the substitution of the voiced labiodental fricative /v/ with its voiceless counterpart /f/ can be attributed to the fact that /f/ is the only labiodental fricative phoneme in the Arabic language.

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