Date of Award

8-1-2014

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Applied Linguistics

First Advisor

Baertsch, Karen

Abstract

The current study tests the use of vowel duration as a cue for the voicing of the following stop by Saudi ESL learners. It is mainly constructed on the Language Transfer Theory (LTT) established by Gass and Selinker (1994), the Ontogeny Phylogeny Model (OPM) formulated by Major (2001), the Perceptual Assimilation Model (PAM) developed by Best (1994, 1995), and the Speech Learning Model (SLM) developed by Flege (1995). The instrument contained 30 English monosyllabic minimal pairs of the type CVC. The participants, who were living in the US, consisted of two groups: 5 advanced Saudi ESL learners with linguistic knowledge and 10 advanced Saudi ESL learners without linguistic knowledge. Results showed that both groups of participants (those with linguistics background and those without linguistics background) were fairly accurate at predicting final voiceless Coronal and Dorsal stops after a shorter vowel. On the other hand, they both had equal difficulties predicting voiced stops in this environment. This would explain why participants in both groups overall seemed to be listening for the voicing status of the final stop and disregarding differences in vowel length as a predictor of that voicing. Individual participants, overall, were quite uniform in their responses regardless of any background in linguistics. This finding suggests that participants in both groups relied much more on the actual voicing of the final stops than they did on the length of the preceding vowel.

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