Vowel Dynamics for Polish Learners of English

  • Geoffrey SchwartzEmail author
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


Vowels in most native varieties of English are characterized by dynamic changes in formant frequencies, an acoustic feature that has been found to be crucial for L1 listeners in vowel identification. By contrast, the acoustic realization of vowels in Polish is characterized by more stable formant patters. This paper presents an acoustic and perceptual study investigating the consequences of these differences for Polish learners of English. Acoustic data reveal that learners at a higher level of proficiency produce more robust formant dynamics. A listening test with L1 English listeners revealed that more dynamic vowel realizations are associated with higher ratings on a scale of foreign accentedness. The cross-language differences may be explained from the perspective of the Onset Prominence model, a theory of phonological representation in which certain ‘phonetic details’ may be attributed to phonological parameter settings.


Advanced Learner Formant Movement Vowel Quality Acoustic Study Vowel Perception 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Bertinetto, P. (1989). Reflections on the dichotomy ‘stress’ vs. ‘syllable-timing’. Revue di Phonetique Appliquee, 91-9, 99-130.Google Scholar
  2. Donegan, P., & Stampe, D. (1979). The study of natural phonology. In D. A. Dinnsen (Ed.), Current approaches to phonological theory (pp. 126-173). Bloomington: IUP. Google Scholar
  3. Donegan, P., & Stampe, D. (1983). Rhythm and the holistic organization of language structure. In J. Richardson et al. (Eds.), The interplay of phonology, morphology, and syntax (pp. 337-353). Chicago: Chicago Linguistic Society. Google Scholar
  4. Donegan, P. (2002). Phonological processes and phonetic rules. In K. Dziubalska-Kołaczyk, & J.Weckwerth (Eds.), Future challenges for natural linguistics (pp. 57-81). Muenchen: LINCOM EUROPA.Google Scholar
  5. Hayes, B., Kirchner, R., & Steriade, D. (2004). Phonetically based phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Jenkins, J., & Strange, W. (1999). Perception of dynamic information for vowels in syllable onsets and offsets. Perception and Psychophysics, 61(6), 1200-1210.Google Scholar
  7. Malisz, Z. (2013). Speech rhythm variability in Polish and English—a study of variability in rhythmic levels. PhD dissertation, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań.Google Scholar
  8. Pike, K. L. (1945). The intonation of American English. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
  9. Prince, A., & Smolensky, P. (1993). Optimality Theory: Constraint interaction in Generative Grammar. Ms., Technical Reports of the Rutgers University, Center for Cognitive Science. [ROA 537].Google Scholar
  10. Ramus, F., Nespor, M., & Mehler, J. (1999). Correlates of linguistic rhythm in the speech signal. Cognition, 73, 265–292.Google Scholar
  11. Schwartz, G. (2007). Vowel quality and its holistic implications for phonology. Ms. Adam Mickiewicz University.Google Scholar
  12. Schwartz, G. (2010). Rhythm and vowel quality in accents of English. Research in Language, 8, 135-147.Google Scholar
  13. Schwartz, G. (2013). A representational parameter for onsetless syllables. Journal of Linguistics, 49(3), 613-646. Google Scholar
  14. Schwartz, G., & Aperliński, G. (2014). The phonology of CV transitions. Crossing phonetics-phonology lines. In E. Cyran & J. Szpyra-Kozłowska (Eds.), Crossing phonetics-phonology lines. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. 277-298.Google Scholar
  15. Sobkowiak, W. (2008). English phonetics for Poles (3rd edition). Poznań: Wydawnictwo Poznańskie.Google Scholar
  16. Strange, W. (1989). Evolving theories of vowel perception. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 85, 2081-2087.Google Scholar
  17. Strange, W., Jenkins, J., & Johnson, T. (1983). Dynamic specification of coarticulated vowels. Journal of the Acousical Society of America, 74, 695-705.Google Scholar
  18. Wagner, P. (2007). Visualising levels of rhythmic organization. Proceedings of ICPhS XVI.Saarbrucken. Google Scholar
  19. White, L., and Mattys, S. L. (2007). Rhythmic typology and variation in first and second languages. In P. Prieto, J. Mascaró, & M.-J. Solé (Eds.), Segmental and Prosodic issues in Romance Phonology (pp. 237-257). Current Issues in Linguistic Theory series. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of EnglishAdam Mickiewicz UniversityPoznańPoland

Personalised recommendations