English vowel production of Mandarin speakers



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This study examines acoustic characteristics of Mandarin and English vowels articulated by their native speakers. In addition, the acoustic properties of English vowel production from Mandarin subjects who speak English as a second language are investigated. There are twenty subjects from each language group. All the vowel productions are studied at the syllable level. First formant (F1) and second formant (F2) values of each Mandarin and English vowel are obtained and analyzed. The acoustic distributions compared in this study are: (1) English vowel production from native speakers of English and Mandarin, and (2) Mandarin and English vowels from Mandarin speakers. The results suggest that there are crossover effects from Mandarin to English in English vowel data from Mandarin speakers. Generally speaking, for the English vowels that have Mandarin equivalents, their acoustic characteristics do not differ significantly from their Mandarin equivalents. For the English vowels without Mandarin equivalents, the formant values of those vowels and their closest Mandarin equivalents most often do not differ either in F1 or F2. It was noteworthy that the acoustic distribution of English vowels from Mandarin subjects shows that Mandarin subjects do not distinguish English /Ω/ from /u/ and /ɔ/ from /o/. The aforementioned findings illustrate features of English spoken with a Mandarin accent. Through examining the properties of a Mandarin accent in English speech, the results of this study can assist ESL teachers or learners in knowing which English vowel pairs are difficult to contrast and serve as a reference on how to position their speech organs to approximate English vowel sounds. Furthermore, the results of this study can provide a basis for future clinical research on the accented English of Mandarin ESL learners and Mandarin speech disorder patients.