Age and Length of Exposure to English and L1 Japanese Speakers' Ability to Discriminate Between the Spoken English /l/ and /r/ Phonemes

宮田, 宗彦
The perception and production of the English phonemes /l/ and /r/ are known to be notoriously difficult for first language (L1) Japanese speakers. Most of the /l/-/r/ SLA research published in the last 40 years has focused almost exclusively on the production of /l/-/r/ to the exclusion of the perception of these phonemes. The question of whether L2 phonological perception of /l/ and /r/ may be affected by maturational constraints is central to this paper, and the researcher is interested in
more » ... ermining the strength of the relationship between perceptual accuracy of the English /l/ and /r/ phonemes and the age at which L1 Japanese learners of English were first exposed to English as spoken by native speakers. The findings of the current study showed that the age related variables were significantly correlated with the perceptual accuracy of the English /l/ and /r/ phonemes, indicating that the age of initial exposure to native English speakers is a predictor of degree of the perceptual ability to discriminate spoken English /l/ and /r/ phonemes for the Japanese participants. The findings suggest that maturational effects may exist for L2 perception of a non-native phonological system. An Overview of Research into Maturational Effects on L2 Acquisition Many second language acquisition (SLA) researchers (e.g., Bley-Vroman, 1989; DeKeyser, 2000; Long, 1990; and Scovel, 1988) have observed that there may be some sort of biological mechanism(s) constraining L2 acquisition, although the scope and details of such proposed constraints are far from being settled matters. The neuroscientists Penfield and Roberts (1959, as cited by Hyltenstam & Abrahamsson, 2003, p. 539) were the first researchers to hypothesize that children learn second languages more efficiently than adults because of some neurobiological capacity that is eventually lost somewhere between childhood and puberty. Lenneberg (1967) examined this observed phenomenon with greater care and scrutiny, using the term neurological plasticity and formulating the first neurolinguistic hypothesis on the matter, the Critical Period
doi:10.34405/00011604 fatcat:7lqoecu7erhvvlfq6xdcmw4f3u