On the Pronunciation of English /ɹ/ and /l/ by Japanese Speakers

Marc Picard


One of the major tenets of the Speech Learning Model (SLM) is that “if two L2 sounds differ in perceived dissimilarity from the closest sound in the L1 inventory, the more dissimilar of the L2 sounds will manifest the greater amount of learning” (Aoyama et al. 2004:248). Given that certain studies have provided “evidence of greater learning for [ɹ] than [l] by N[ative]J[apanese] learners of English” (2004:246), the SLM hypothesis can only be upheld if English [l] is more similar to Japanese [ɾ] than English [ɹ] is. However, this is clearly counterintuitive since, by most accounts, [ɾ] represents a central flap, [l] a lateral approximant, and [ɹ] a central approximant. In this study, it will be argued that English laterals cannot be more similar to Japanese /r/ than English rhotics are, as the SLM would have it, unless the Japanese sound contains a lateral component such as that which is found in the flap [ɺ]. As it happens, a number of phoneticians and phonologists have argued that this is indeed the case with Japanese /r/, as will be shown, and this is something that the proponents of the SLM would need to acknowledge if their theoretical stance is to be maintained.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.11114/ijecs.v1i1.3282


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International Journal of English and Cultural Studies 

ISSN  (2575-811X)  E-ISSN  (2575-8101)

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