The influence of metalinguistic knowledge of segmental phonology on the production of English vowels by Brazilian undergraduate students

Ronaldo Mangueira Lima Jr


This paper presents data on the production of English vowels [i ɪ ɛ æ u ʊ] by Brazilian English Language Teaching (ELT) undergraduate students before and after taking a course on English Segmental Phonology. Brazilian learners tend to assimilate the contrasts present in [i ɪ], [ɛ æ] and [u ʊ] into the prototypical categories of Brazilian Portuguese [i], [ɛ] and [u], respectively. Thus, this paper investigates the influence of receiving explicit metalinguistic instruction of English segmental phonology on the production of the target pairs of vowels. The data analysis is of acoustic nature (spectral quality), and the results show that some learners created new phonetic categories for the English vowels after receiving the metalinguistic instruction.


Phonological Acquisition; Acoustic Analysis; English as a Foreign Language; Explicit Instruction

Full Text:



Arantes, P. (2010). Formants.praat.

Arantes, P. (2011). Collectformants.praat.

BARBOZA, C. L. F. (2008). Descrição acústica dos sons vocálicos anteriores do inglês e do português realizados por professores de inglês língua estrangeira no oeste potiguar. 183 f. Dissertação (Mestrado Acadêmico em Linguística Aplicada)–Universidade Estadual do Ceará, Fortaleza.

Bion, R. A. H., Escudero, P., Rauber, A. S., & Baptista, B. O. (2006). Category formation and the role of spectral quality in the perception and production of English front vowels. In Interspeech. Citeseer.

Boersma, P., & Weenink, D. (2011). PRAAT.

Bybee, J. (2003). Phonology and language use (Vol. 94). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Celce-Murcia, M., Brinton, D. M., & Goodwin, J. M. (2010). Teaching Pronunciation: A Course Book and Reference Guide (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Cristófaro Silva, T. (2003). Descartando fonemas: a representação mental da fonologia de uso. In D. Hora & G. Collischonn (Eds.), Teoria linguística: fonologia e outros temas. João Pessoa: Editora Universitária.

De Bot, K. (2008). Introduction: Second language development as a dynamic process. The Modern Language Journal, 92(2), 166–178.

De Bot, K., & Larsen-Freeman, D. (2011). Researching second language development from a dynamic systems theory perspective. A Dynamic Approach to Second Language Development: Methods and Techniques, 5–24.

De Bot, K., Lowie, W., & Verspoor, M. (2007). A dynamic systems theory approach to second language acquisition. Bilingualism Language and Cognition, 10(1), 7.

Flege, J. E. (1995). Second language speech learning: Theory, findings, and problems. In W. Strange (Ed.), Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research (pp. 233–277). Baltimore: York Press.

Flege, J. E. (1999). Age of learning and second language speech. In D. Birdsong (Ed.), Second language acquisition and the critical period hypothesis (pp. 101–131). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Flege, J. E. (2007). Language contact in bilingualism: Phonetic system interactions. Laboratory Phonology, 9, 353–382.

Kuhl, P. (1991). Human adults and human infants show a “perceptual magnet effect” for the prototypes of speech categories, monkeys do not. Perception & Psychophysics, 50(2), 93–107.

Kuhl, P. K. (1993). Innate predispositions and the effects of experience in speech perception: The native language magnet theory. In B. de Boysson-Bardies, S. de Schonen, P. Jusczyk, P. McNeilage, & J. Morton (Eds.), Developmental neurocognition: Speech and face processing in the first year of life (pp. 259–274). The Hague: Kluwer Academic Publishers.

Kuhl, P. K., Conboy, B. T., Coffey-Corina, S., Padden, D., Rivera-Gaxiola, M., & Nelson, T. (2008). Phonetic learning as a pathway to language: new data and native language magnet theory expanded (NLM-e). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363(1493), 979–1000.

Ladefoged, P., & Johnson, K. (2011). A course in phonetics (6th ed.).

Larsen-Freeman, D. (1997). Chaos/complexity science and second language acquisition. Applied Linguistics, 18(2), 141–165.

Larsen-Freeman, D., & Cameron, L. (2008). Research methodology on language development from a complex systems perspective. The Modern Language Journal, 200–213.

Leather, J. (2003). Phonological acquisition in multilingualism. In M. del P. G. Mayo & M. L. G. Lecumberri (Eds.), Age and the Acquisition of English as a Foreign Language (pp. 23–58). Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.

McCloy, D. R. (2016). phonR: tools for phoneticians and phonologists.

Morley, J. (1994). Pronunciation pedagogy and theory: new views, new directions. Bloomington: ERIC.

Parrino, A. (1998). The politics of pronunciation and the adult learner. Adult ESL: Politics, Pedagogy and Participation in Classroom and Community Programs, 171–184.

Pennington, M. C. (1996). Phonology in English Language Teaching. New York: Addison Wesley Longman Limited.

Pennington, M. C. (1998). The Teachability of Phonology in Adulthood: A Re-Examination. IRAL, 36(4), 323–341.

Pierrehumbert, J. (2001). Stochastic phonology. Glot International, 5(6), 195–207.

Pierrehumbert, J. (2003). Phonetic diversity, statistical learning, and acquisition of phonology. Language and Speech, 46(2–3), 115–154.

R Core Team. (2016). R: A language and environment for statistical computing.

Rauber, A. S. (2006). Perception and production of English vowels by Brazilian EFL speakers. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Florianópolis.

Silveira, R. (2004). The influence of pronunciation instruction on the perception and the production of English word-final consonants. Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina.

Singleton, D. M., & Ryan, L. (2004). Language acquisition: the age factor (Vol. 47). Clevedon, New York, Ontario: Multilingual Matters.

Tomlinson, B. (2005). English as a foreign language: Matching procedures to the context of learning. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Handbook of research in second language teaching and learning (Vol. 1, pp. 137–154). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Vallabha, G. K., & Tuller, B. (2002). Systematic errors in the formant analysis of steady-state vowels. Speech Communication, 38(1), 141–160.

Verspoor, M., De Bot, K., & Lowie, W. (2011). A dynamic approach to second language development: Methods and techniques (Vol. 29). Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing.

Watkins, M. A., & Rauber, A. S. (2010). Variability in pretonic vowel reduction by Brazilian speakers of English. In A. S. Rauber, M. A. Watkins, R. Silveira, & R. Koerich (Eds.), The acquisition of language speech: studies in honor of Professor Barbara O. Baptista (pp. 75–99). Florianópolis: Insular.

Wells, J. C. (1982). Accents of English (Vol. 1). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wempe, T., & Boersma, P. (2003). The interactive design of an F0-related spectral analyser. In Proc. 15th ICPhS (pp. 343–346).

Yule, G., & Macdonald, D. (1994). The effects of pronunciation teaching. Pronunciation Pedagogy and Theory: New Views, New Directions, 109–118.


Copyright (c) 2017

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.