Testing English Speakers’ Perception of Arabic Contrasts

Alwaleed A. Alsuhaibani


This paper presents the results of an experiment conducted to investigate how adult native speakers of English perceive some Arabic contrasts within Brown’s Phonological Interference Model (PIM) (1998, 2000), based on the theory of Feature Geometry. Three Arabic pairs of contrasts were chosen for the experiment: the contrast /b – d/ consisting of consonants present in both English and Arabic; the contrast /x ?/ consisting of consonants that are non-native to English but are distinguished by the features [dorsal, voice, continuant] which are available in the English feature geometry; and finally the contrast /h – ?/, of which only the former exists in English, whereas the latter is non-native to English and is distinguished by the feature [RTR], which is unavailable in the English feature geometry, thereby rendering /?/ completely alien to the English sound system. The experiment consisted of an AX Discrimination task where subjects heard two sounds and were asked to decide whether they were the same or different. Three groups participated in the experiment: an Arabic L1 control group, an English L1 group, and finally an Arabic L2 group. The results of the experiment confirm Brown’s findings in a similar experiment with Japanese and Chinese speakers’ perception of English.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/eltls.v4n3p19


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