La Influencia del Factor Edad en la Percepción de Vocales y Diptongos Ingleses

Book Title
Jesús Diaz García
204 - 208
Universidad de Sevilla

This study asessed the effect of age of first exposure to English on non-native speakers´ perception of English simple vowels and diphthongs. According to some investigations, onset age plays a very important role in vowel perception and production, this not being so in the case of other phonological components. However, in the light of some recent studies in formal instructional contexts, English vowels seem to be more reluctant to the facilitating effects of an early age of exposure. For our study,  we are interested in discovering whether the age at which 60 Basque/Spanish bilingual subjects started their school instruction in English (ages 4, 8, and 11) influences their discrimination of English simple vowels and diphthongs. 20 subjects were assigned to each one of these three age groups. An auditory discrimination test was designed in the form of a minimal pair identification test. Listeners were asked to point to the word corresponding to the aural stimulus. Global results showed that discrimination skills increased linearly with age, that is, the older the better. However, subsequent analysis found these differences to be significant only when contrasting the oldest group (age 11) and the youngest one (age 4). Besides, when analysing simple vowels and diphthongs apart, we discovered that age differences were not significant in the case of diphthongs, and also that all age groups perceived diphthongs less accurately than simple vowels.