The Realization of English Vowels by Kuwaiti Speakers


  •  Hanan Taqi    
  •  Nada Algharabali    
  •  Rahima Akbar    

Abstract

Learning to speak a language does not necessarily mean learning to realize all the phonemes of that language. When a sound does not exist in a speakers’ mother tongue, s/he tends to use a phonotactic; hence, either replacing the sound with another that might sound similar, eliminating the sound, or adding a sound to make it possible to realize. In some cases, the orthography of the target language causes confusion and is considered misleading to non-native speakers. There are only 6 vowels in Arabic phonetics, long and short. Yet, there are 20 phonetic vowel symbols in Received Pronunciation, and 16 in General American. The following study investigates the realization of the English vowels by Kuwaiti speakers, and the effect of orthography on such realizations. 64 male and female Kuwaiti speakers are recorded reading 55 words and 10 sentences. The data obtained was analyzed by Praat (qualitative data), and SPSS (quantitative data). Focus group interviews were also conducted to gain further insight into the topic. It was found that not only do the speakers replace the vowels that do not exist in Arabic, but they also mispronounce vowels that exist in Arabic as they are negatively affected by the English orthography.



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