Native, non-native and L2 perceptual cue weighting for Dutch vowels: the case of Dutch, German, and Spanish listeners

Paola Escudero*, Titia Benders, Silvia C. Lipski

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research has demonstrated that learners of English with different L1 backgrounds diverge from native speakers in their use of acoustic cues for the perception and production of vowel contrasts. This study investigated the use of two cues, i.e., vowel spectrum and duration, for the categorization of the Dutch /a:/-/a{script}/ contrast in three groups of listeners: L1-Dutch, L1-Spanish L2-Dutch, and L1-German listeners. Three aspects of vowel contrast perception were tested: the categorical nature of the listeners' perceptual boundary, their cue weighting, and their use of the individual cues. Experience with the Dutch language played a role in the ability to perceptually distinguish the two vowel categories: Native Dutch listeners and Spanish learners of Dutch could categorize prototypical tokens of Dutch /a:/ and /a{script}/ more reliably than L1-German listeners without experience with the Dutch language. Native Dutch listeners had the most sharply defined boundary between the two categories. The results also show that language background strongly affects vowel perception: both L1-Dutch and L1-German listeners weight vowel spectrum heavier than vowel duration, whereas L1-Spanish L2-Dutch listeners favour vowel duration. L1-German listeners' cue weighting can be explained in terms of the cross-linguistic comparison between German and Dutch vowels. L1-Spanish L2-Dutch listeners' results have implications for theories of second language perception.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)452-465
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Phonetics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2009
Externally publishedYes


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