The Korean Association for the Study of English Language and Linguistics
[ Article ]
Korea Journal of English Language and Linguistics - Vol. 20, No. 1, pp.20-41
ISSN: 1598-1398 (Print)
Print publication date 31 Mar 2020
Received 07 Feb 2020 Revised 10 Mar 2020 Accepted 20 Mar 2020

Production and Perception of Phonetic Variations across English Word Boundaries by Korean EFL Learners

Hye-Young Um
Myongji University

Copyright 2020 KASELL
This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0, which permits unrestricted, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The present study aimed to investigate whether and how Korean L2 English learners’ verbal productions of near-homophonous phrases (e.g., keeps parking vs. keep sparking; seen either vs. see neither) are distinctively perceived by native speakers of English. It also examined whether and how Korean learners correctly perceive the native speaker’s production of those near-homophonous phrases. For both correct production and perception, utilizing acoustic-phonetic information such as aspiration and glottal stop is necessary to signal and identify word boundary within a phrase. Twenty Korean college EFL learners participated in the production and perception experiments. The results showed: 1) Korean learners’ production of the phrases that necessitate a positive phonetic cue (e.g., keeps parking) was more difficult for native English speakers to correctly perceive; 2) Korean learners’ production of aspiration type was more difficult to be correctly perceived than the other types; and 3) Korean learners had difficulty in perceiving the aspiration type phrases and the phrases that do not have positive phonetic cues, although they were generally very good at the perception task. Possible sources for Korean learners’ difficulty in producing positive phonetic cues were discussed.


word boundaries, segmentation, phonetic variations, phonetic cues, production, perception, aspiration, glottal stop, second language


  • Altenberg, E. 2005. The perception of word boundaries in a second language. Second Language Research 24(4), 325-358. []
  • Chang, S and H. Park. 2011. A study of the use of allophonic cues in the perception of English word boundaries by Korean learners of English. Phonetics and Speech Sciences 3(3), 63-68.
  • Christie, W. 1974. Some cues for syllable juncture perception in English. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 55, 819-21. []
  • Flege, J. E. 1991. Perception and production: The relevance of phonetic input to L2 phonological learning. In T. Hueber and C. Ferguson, eds., Crosscurrents in Second Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theories, 249-289. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. []
  • Flege, J. E. 1993. Production and perception of a novel, second-language phonetic contrast. Journal of Acoustical Society of America 93(3), 1589-1608. []
  • Ito, K. and W. Strange. 2009. Perception of allophonic cues to English word boundaries by Japanese second language learners of English. Journal of Acoustical Society of America 125(4), 2348-2360. []
  • Jo, J. 2016. Native and non-native English speakers’ production of voiceless stops: effects of lexical stress and prosodic domain on VOT. English Studies 36, 111-128.
  • Kent, R. and C. Read. 1992. The Acoustic Analysis of Speech. San Diego: Singular Publishing Group.
  • Nakatani, L. and K. Dukes. 1977. Locus of segmental cues for word juncture. Journal of Acoustical Society of America 62, 714-719. []
  • Lisker, L. and A. Abramson. 1964. A cross-language study of voicing in initial stops: Acoustical measurements. Word 20, 384-422. []
  • Olive, J., A. Greenwood and J. Coleman. 1993. The Acoustics of American English Speech: A Dynamic Approach, NY: Springer-Verlag.
  • Schwartz, G. 2016. Word boundaries in L2 speech: Evidence from Polish learners of English. Second Language Research 32(3), 397-426. []
  • Shin, S. and Y. Hwang. 2012. Perception and production of English geminate consonants across word boundaries by Korean learners and native speakers of English. Studies in Phonetics, Phonology and Morphology 18(1), 85-110. []
  • Shoemaker, E. 2014. The exploitation of subphonemic acoustic detail in L2 speech segmentation. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 36, 709-731. []
  • Yun, G. 2009. Korean learners’ perceptual cues for word boundaries in English. Korean Journal of Linguistics 34(1), 73-92. []
  • Um, H. 2006. The perception of word boundaries by Korean college EFL learners. The Linguistic Association of Korea Journal 14(3), 51-70.

Um, Hye-Young, ProfessorMyongji UniversityBangmok College of General Education116 Myongji-ro, Cheoin-gu, Yongin-siGyeonggi-do, 17058, KoreaTel: 031-330-6264E-mail: