Discrimination of uncategorised non-native vowel contrasts is modulated by perceived overlap with native phonological categories

Mona M. Faris, Catherine T. Best, Michael D. Tyler

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11 Citations (Scopus)
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Non-native vowels perceived as speech-like but not identified with a particular native (L1) vowel are assimilated as uncategorised, and have received very little empirical attention. According to the Perceptual Assimilation Model (PAM: Best, 1995), contrasts where one or both phones are uncategorised are Uncategorised-Categorised and Uncategorised-Uncategorised, respectively. We reasoned that discrimination accuracy for these assimilations should be influenced by perceived phonological overlap (i.e., overlap in the categorisations to L1 vowels), and predicted excellent discrimination for non-overlapping contrasts, followed by partially overlapping, and completely overlapping contrasts. To test those predictions, Australian English speakers discriminated between Danish monophthongal and diphthongal vowel contrasts that formed Uncategorised-Categorised and Uncategorised-Uncategorised assimilations, varying in the presence of overlap, in addition to Two-Category and Single-Category contrasts. The discrimination accuracy results supported our predictions. These findings have implications for PAM, and broader relevance to second-language learning models, as they allow for more precise discrimination predictions to be made based on assimilation type.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Phonetics
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • Cross-language speech perception
  • Perceptual assimilation
  • Uncategorised assimilations
  • Perceived phonological overlap
  • Discrimination accuracy
  • Vowels

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