Non-native pronunciations of English
Non-native pronunciations of English result from the common linguistic phenomenon in which non-native users of any language tend to carry the intonation, phonological processes and pronunciation rules from their mother tongue into their English speech. They may also create innovative pronunciations for English sounds not found in the speaker's first language.
The speech of non-native English speakers may exhibit pronunciation characteristics that result from such speakers imperfectly learning the pronunciation of English, either by transferring the phonological rules from their mother tongue into their English speech ("interference") or through implementing strategies similar to those used in primary language acquisition. They may also create innovative pronunciations for English sounds not found in the speaker's first language.
The age at which speakers begin to immerse themselves into a language (such as English) is linked to the degree in which native speakers are able to detect a non-native accent; the exact nature of the link is disputed amongst scholars and may be affected by "neurological plasticity, cognitive development, motivation, psychosocial states, formal instruction, language learning aptitude," and the usage of their first (L1) and second (L2) languages.
English is unusual in that speakers rarely produce an audible release between consonant clusters and often overlap constriction times. Speaking English with a timing pattern that is dramatically different may lead to speech that is difficult to understand.
More transparently, differing phonological distinctions between a speaker's first language and English create a tendency to neutralize such distinctions in English, and differences in the inventory or distribution of sounds may cause substitutions of native sounds in the place of difficult English sounds and/or simple deletion. This is more common when the distinction is subtle between English sounds or between a sound of English and of a speaker's primary language. While there is no evidence to suggest that a simple absence of a sound or sequence in one language's phonological inventory makes it difficult to learn, several theoretical models have presumed that non-native speech perceptions reflect both the abstract phonological properties and phonetic details of the native language.
Such characteristics may be transmitted to the children of bilinguals, who will then exhibit a number of the same characteristics even if they are monolingual.
- Speakers tend to speak with a rhotic accent and pronounce /r/ as a flap or trill.
- Speakers tend to have difficulty pronouncing the letter /p/.
- Because of the phonetic differences between English and French rhotics, speakers may perceive /r/ as /w/-like and have trouble distinguishing between /r/ and /w/.
- French speakers have difficulty with /h/ and systematically delete it, as most French dialects don't have this sound.
- Speakers may not velarize /l/ in coda positions as most native speakers do.
- They have a smaller pitch range, less consonant cluster reduction and less vowel reduction.
- Speakers are likely to insert a glottal stop [ʔ] before words that begin with vowels.
- German speakers often use [v] instead of [w], due to the lack of /w/ in most German varieties. Also, some speakers might pronounce [w] or [ʋ], where a [v] is pronounced by native speakers (hypercorretion).
- The /æ/ vowel is usually realised as [ɛ].
- Most native speakers pronounce the high vowels /i/ and /u/ with an offglide (approximately [ij] und [uw]). Most German speakers will use their native [i] and [u] instead.
- Some German speakers will devoice obstruents word-finally, as common in German. Also, word-initial obstruents are also often devoiced by German speakers. (German /b/ and /p/ are pronounced [b̥] and [pʰ] at the beginning of a word.)
- The lack of discrimination in Hebrew between tense and lax vowels makes correctly pronouncing English words such as hit/heat and cook/kook difficult.
- Dental fricatives–/ð/ (as in "the") and /θ/ (as in "think") –are often mispronounced.
- Hebrew speakers may confuse /w/ and /v/.
- In Hebrew, word stress is usually on the last (ultimate) or penultimate syllable of a word; speakers may carry their stress system into English, which has a much more varied stress system. Hebrew speakers may also use Hebrew intonation patterns which mark them as foreign speakers of English.
- The dental fricatives /θ/ and /ð/ may be replaced by [s̻] and [d̪]
- Since Hungarian lacks the phoneme /w/, many Hungarian speakers substitute /v/ for /w/ when speaking in English. A less frequent practice is hypercorrection: substituting /w/ for /v/ in instances where the latter is actually correct.
A study on Italian children's pronunciation of English revealed the following characteristics:
- Tendency to replace the English high lax vowels /ɪ/ /ʊ/ with [i] [u] (ex: "fill" and "feel", "put" "poot" are homophones), since Italian does not have these vowels.
- Tendency to replace /ŋ/ with [ŋɡ] ("singer" rhymes with "finger") or as [n] because Italian [ŋ] is an allophone of /n/ before velar stops.
- Tendency to replace word-initial /sm/ with [zm], e.g. small [zmɔl]. This voicing also applies to /sl/ and /sn/.
- Tendency to add /h/ to some vowel-initial words, due to hypercorrection.
- Tendency to replace /ʌ/ with [a] so that mother is pronounced [ˈmadər] or [ˈmaðər], since Italian does not have this vowel.
- Italian does not have dental fricatives:
- Voiceless /θ/ may be replaced with a dental [t̪] or with [f].
- Voiced /ð/ may become a dental [d̪].
- Since /t/ and /d/ are typically pronounced as dental stops anyway, words like there and dare can become homophones.
- /æ/ is replaced with [ɛ], so that bag sounds like beg [bɛɡ].
- Tendency to pronounce /p t k/ as unaspirated stops.
- Schwa [ə] does not exist in Italian; speakers tend to give the written vowel its full pronunciation, e.g. lemon [ˈlɛmɔn], television [tɛleˈviʒɔn], parrot [ˈpærot], intelligent [inˈtɛlidʒɛnt], water [ˈwɔtɛr], sugar [ˈʃuɡar].
- Italian speakers may pronounce consonant-final English words with a strong vocalic offset, especially in isolated words, e.g. dog [dɔɡᵊ]. This has led to the stereotype of Italians adding [ə] to the ends of English words.
- Tendency to pronounce /r/ as a trill [r] rather than the English approximant /ɹ/, e.g. parrot [ˈpærot].
In addition, Italians learning English have a tendency to pronounce words as they are spelled, so that walk is [wɔlk], guide is [ɡwid], and boiled is [ˈbɔɪlɛd]. This is also true for loanwords borrowed from English as water, which is pronounced [vatɛr] instead of [ˈwɔːtə]. Related to this is the fact that many Italians produce /r/ wherever it is spelled (e.g. star [star]), resulting in a rhotic accent, even when the dialect of English they are learning is nonrhotic. Consonants written double may be pronounced as geminates, e.g. Italians pronounce apple with a longer [p] sound than English speakers do.
- Speakers tend to confuse /l/ and /r/ both in perception and production, since the Japanese language does not make such a distinction. The closest Japanese phoneme to either of these is /ɺ/, though speakers may hear English /r/ as similar to the Japanese /w/.
- There is no /w/ in Russian; speakers typically substitute [v]
- Native Russian speakers tend to produce an audible release for final consonants and in consonant clusters and are likely to transfer this to English speech, creating inappropriate releases of final bursts that sound overly careful and stilted and even causing native listeners to perceive extra unstressed syllables.
- There are no dental fricatives (/θ/ and /ð/) in Russian, and native Russian speakers may pronounce them as [s] and [z].
- Difficulty with English vowels. Russian speakers may have difficulty distinguishing /iː/ and /ɪ/, /æ/ and /ɛ/, and /uː/ and /ʊ/; similarly, speakers' pronunciation of long vowels may sound more like their close counterpart (e.g. /ɑː/ may sound closer to /æ/) 
- Speakers may articulate an alveolar trill instead of an alveolar approximant.
- Likewise, /h/ may be pronounced like its closest Russian equivalent, [x].
- Since Spanish does not make voicing contrasts between its fricatives (and its one affricate), speakers may neutralize contrasts between /s/ and /z/; likewise, fricatives may assimilate the voicing of a following consonant.
- Speakers tend to merge /tʃ/ with /ʃ/, and /dʒ/ and /ʒ/ with /j/.
- /j/ and /w/ often have a fluctuating degree of closure.
- For the most part (especially in colloquial speech), Spanish allows only five (or six) word-final consonants: /s/, /n/, /r/, /l/ and /d/ (plus /θ/ in Castilian Spanish); speakers may omit word-final consonants other than these, or alter them (for example, by turning /m/ to /n/).
- In Spanish, /s/ must immediately precede or follow a vowel; often a word beginning with [s] + consonant will obtain an epenthetic vowel (typically [e]) to make stomp pronounced [esˈtamp] rather than [stɒmp].
- In Spanish, a voiceless dental fricative /θ/ phoneme exists only in certain Peninsular dialects; where this sound appears in English, speakers of other Spanish dialects substitute /t/, /s/ or /f/ for it.
- Speakers tend to merge /ð/ and /d/, pronouncing both as voiced dental plosive unless they occur in intervocalic position, in which case they are pronounced [ð]. A similar process occurs with /v/ and /b/.
- The three nasal phonemes of Spanish neutralize in coda-position; speakers may invariably pronounce nasal consonants as homorganic to a following consonant; if word-final (as in welcome) common realizations include [n], deletion with nasalization of the preceding vowel, or [ŋ].
- Speakers may not produce final consonants since there are fewer final consonants in Vietnamese and those that do exist differ in their phonetic quality:
- Final /b/ is likely to be confused with /p/
- Final /d/ is likely to be confused with /t/
- Final /f/ is likely to be confused with /p/
- Final /v/ is likely to be confused with /b/ or /p/
- Final /s/ is likely to be confused with /ʃ/ or simply omitted
- Final /ʃ/ is likely to be omitted
- Final /z/ is likely to be confused with /ʃ/ or /s/
- Final /tʃ/ is likely to be confused with /ʃ/
- Final /l/ is likely to be confused with /n/
- Final /t/ is likely to be confused with /k/ (by southern Vietnamese)
- Speakers also have difficulty with English consonant clusters, with segments being omitted or epenthetic vowels being inserted.
- Speakers may not aspirate initial /t/ and /k/, making native listeners perceive them as /d/ and /ɡ/ respectively.
- Speakers often have difficulty with the following phonemes, which may depend in some cases upon where in Vietnam they are originally from:
- /θ/, which is confused with /t/ or /s/
- /ð/, which is confused with /d/ or /z/
- /p/, which is confused with /b/
- /ɡ/, which is confused with /k/
- /dʒ/, which is confused with /z/
- /ʒ/, which is confused with /z/ or /dʒ/
- /s/, which is confused with /ʃ/ (by northern Vietnamese)
- /tɹ/, which is confused with /dʒ/, /tʃ/ or /t/ (by northern Vietnamese)
- /v/, which is confused with /j/ (by southern Vietnamese)
- /ɪ/, which is confused with /iː/
- /ʊ/, which is confused with /uː/ or /ʌ/
- /æ/, which is confused with /ɑː/
- Vietnamese is a tonal language and speakers may try to use the Vietnamese tonal system or use a monotone with English words. They may also associate tones onto the intonational pattern of a sentence and becoming confused with such inflectional changes.
See also 
- Anglophone pronunciation of foreign languages
- Pronunciation of English ⟨th⟩
- Non-native speech database
- International Dialects of English Archive
- Accent reduction
- MacDonald (1989:224)
- Munro & Mann (2005:311)
- Zsiga (2003:400–401)
- Jeffers & Lehiste (1979:140)
- Goldstein, Fabiano & Washington (2005:203)
- MacDonald (1989:223)
- See the overview at Hallé, Best & Levitt (1999:283)
- MacDonald (1989:215)
- Khattab (2002:101)
- Hallé, Best & Levitt (1999:294)
- Paradise & LaCharité (2001:257), citing LaCharité & Prévost (1999)
- Gut (2009)
- Nádasdy (2006)
- Kovács & Siptár (2006:?)
- Martin Russell, Analysis of Italian children’s English pronunciation. Accessed 2007-07-12.
- Goto (1971:?)
- Hallé, Best & Levitt (1999:284)
- Thompson (1991)
- Zsiga (2003:400–401, 423)
- "О характерных ошибках в произношении при изучении английского языка".
- "Как исправить или улучшить свое произношение?".
- MacDonald (1989:219)
- Jeffers & Lehiste (1979:139)
- Hwa-Froelich, Hodson & Edwards (2003:269)
- Hwa-Froelich, Hodson & Edwards (2003:267)
- Hwa-Froelich, Hodson & Edwards (2003:271)
- Hwa-Froelich, Hodson & Edwards (2003:265)
- Ravid, Dorit (1995), Language Change in Child and Adult Hebrew: A Psycholinguistic Perspective, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-508893-9
- Hwa-Froelich, Deborah; Hodson, Barbara W; Edwards, Harold T (2003), "Characteristics of Vietnamese Phonology", American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 11 (3): 264–273, doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2002/031)
- Goldstein, Brian; Fabiano, Leah; Washington, Patricia Swasey (2005), "Phonological Skills in Predominantly English-Speaking, Predominantly Spanish-Speaking, and Spanish–English Bilingual Children", Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools 36 (3): 201–218, doi:10.1044/0161-1461(2005/021)
- Goto, Hiromu (1971), "Auditory perception by normal Japanese adults of the sounds "l" and "r""", Neuropsychologia 9 (3): 317–323, doi:10.1016/0028-3932(71)90027-3, PMID 5149302
- Gut, Ulrike (2009), Non-native speech. A corpus-based analysis of phonological and phonetic properties of L2 English and German., Frankfurt: Peter Lang
- Hallé, Pierre A.; Best, Catherine T.; Levitt, Andrea; Andrea (1999), "Phonetic vs. phonological influences on French listeners' perception of American English approximants", Journal of Phonetics 27 (3): 281–306, doi:10.1006/jpho.1999.0097
- Jeffers, Robert J.; Lehiste, Ilse (1979), Principles and Methods for Historical Linguistics, MIT press, ISBN 0-262-60011-0
- Khattab, Ghada (2002), "/r/ production in English and Arabic bilingual and monolingual speakers", in Nelson, Diane, Leeds Working Papers in Linguistics and Phonetics 9, pp. 91–129
- Kovács, János; Siptár, Péter (2006), A-Z angol kiejtés, Budapest: Corvina Kiadó, ISBN 963-13-5557-8
- LaCharité, Darlene; Prévost, Philippe, in Greenhill, Annabel; Tano; Littlefield, Heather, Proceedings of the 23rd Annual Boston University Conference on Language Development 2, Somerville, Mass.: Cascadilla Press, pp. 373–385 More than one of
- MacDonald, Marguerite (1989), "The influence of Spanish phonology on the English spoken by United States Hispanics", in Bjarkman, Peter; Hammond, Robert, American Spanish pronunciation: Theoretical and applied perspectives, Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, pp. 215–236, ISBN 9780878404933
- Munro, Miles; Mann, Virginia (2005), "Age of immersion as a predictor of foreign accent", Applied Psycholinguistics 26 (3): 311–341, doi:10.1017/S0142716405050198
- Nádasdy, Ádám (2006), Background to English Pronunciation, Budapest: Nemzeti Tankönyvkiadó, ISBN 963-19-5791-8
- Paradis, Carole; LaCharité, Darlene (2001), "Guttural deletion in loanwords", Phonology 18 (2): 255–300, doi:10.1017/S0952675701004079
- Thompson, Irene (1991), "Foreign Accents Revisited: The English Pronunciation of Russian Immigrants", Language Learning 41 (2): 177–204, doi:10.1111/j.1467-1770.1991.tb00683.x
Further reading 
- Wiik, K. (1965), Finnish and English Vowels: A comparison with special reference to the learning problems met by native speakers of Finnish learning English, Turku: Annales Universitatis Turkuensis
- A site collecting recordings of people from different areas reading the same paragraph (most recordings also have an IPA transcription)
- International Dialects of English Archive
- Articles, Determiners, and Quantifiers