James Emil Flege

James Emil Flege
University of Alabama at Birmingham | UAB · School of Health Professions

PhD
I am currently engaged in L2 speech acquisition research with colleagues in Europe and North America.

About

250
Publications
79,152
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20,220
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Introduction
I examine L2 speech learning across the lifespan. My theoretical model was recently revised as the SLM-r (Flege & Bohn, 2021). In other work we examined, within the SLM-r framework, the so-called "problem" that Japanese speakers have with English /r/ and /l/ (Flege, Aoyama & Bohn, 2021) and suggested new methods for L2 research (Flege, 2021). My current work focuses on the Category Precision Hypothesis of the SLM-r.

Publications

Publications (250)
Preprint
Full-text available
None of the various methods currently used to elicit speech samples for phonetics research is a gold standard, and all introduce unwanted inter- and intra-subject variability as the result of insufficient experimental control. The new elicitation method presented here will reduce unwanted variability by providing speech that more closely resembles...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
A distributional learning account is proposed that might help explain inter-subject variability in L2 speech learning. The approach outlined here is applied to research examining the production and perception of short-lag stops in English and Italian by long-time native Italian residents of Canada. The approach opens a new line of investigation tha...
Chapter
Full-text available
This study examines the production of English vowels by native speakers of Dutch from the perspective of the "new" vs "similar" distinction. L2 vowel production accuracy is evaluated both perceptually, via the judgments of listeners who are native speakers of American or British English), and acoustically.
Chapter
Full-text available
The perception of vowels in a second language (L2) has been evaluated via tests of discrimination, categorization, and identification. I discuss the advantages and disadvantages of these approaches, none of which is perfect, and then present a new perceptual testing technique that is designed to be sensitive to the creation of new phonetic categori...
Chapter
Full-text available
Four hypotheses regarding "age" effects on ultimate L2 proficiency are considered here. All four are found to have some predictive power, but none is perfect. It appears that age-related effects arise from multiple factors that co-vary with the age at which L2 learning began. Of these, the amount and quality of L2 input received, and the strength o...
Article
Full-text available
This study examined the French syllables/tu/("tous"} and/ty/("tu"} produced in three speaking tasks by native speakers of American English and French talkers living in the U.S. In a paired-comparison task listeners correctly identified more of the vowels produced by French than American talkers, and more vowels produced by experienced than inexperi...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Compensatory tongue. positioning in vowel production was examined in two conditions of lower-than-normal jaw positions (bite-block speech and loud speech), and compared to a "normal" speech condition. Tongue-palate distances in multiple productIons of German vowels were measured using glossometry. The tongue compensated for the lower jaw posItions...
Presentation
Full-text available
In this talk I provide examples of “age” effects in L2 acquisition research. I then outline four hypotheses regarding the basis of what appear to be age effects on the ultimate levels of proficiency attained in an L2. Finally, I consider strengths and weaknesses of each hypothesis in turn
Presentation
Full-text available
It is widely believed that "earlier is better" for L2 learning, and this is often (but not always) true. But why? In this talk I will provide examples of “age” effects in L2 acquisition research. I will then outline four hypotheses regarding “age” effects on ultimate proficiency in an L2. Finally, I will briefly consider strengths and weaknesses of...
Article
Full-text available
This study examines the perception of English vowels by native speakers of Italian. In two preliminary experiments. Italian university students who had lived in Canada for 3 months were found to have difficulty discriminating In/-IA!. le/-/oo/. and /iI-/II because they often identified both members of each contrast as instances of a single Italian...
Chapter
Full-text available
Earlier is generally better as far as learning to pronounce an L2 is concerned. I begin by showing that the age of arrival (AOA) of native Korean speakers in the US had a strong effect on how they pronounced English. However, findings summarized in later sections suggested that the apparent effect of AOA arose from factors confounded with this vari...
Chapter
Full-text available
In this chapter I consider the relation between the age of first exposure to a second language (L2) and the accuracy with which the L2 is pronounced. Earlier is almost always better. However the widely accepted view that age of L2 learning effects can be attributed to the closure of a critical period for speech learning is by no means certain.
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter had three goals: (1) to identify and develop theoretical issues of importance regarding the production and perception of sounds found in a foreign language; (2) to review research dealing with these issues up to 1984, when this chapter was completed; and (3) and to identify topics of special interest for future research.
Article
Full-text available
This study examined the recognition of English words by native speakers of Italian who differed in age of arrival in Canada and amount of continued native language use. The effect of variation in language use was interpreted to have arisen from differences in the extent to which the early bilinguals' Italian phonetic system influenced the represent...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Here I review previously published research which examined the production and perception of /b d g/ and /p t k/ in the initial position of English words by native speakers of Spanish, French and Italian. I then present new data for Italian learners of English. The analyses yielded several conclusions of theoretical importance. (1) Learning to produ...
Chapter
Full-text available
Here we present the revised Speech learning model (SLM-r), an individual differences model which aims to account for how phonetic systems reorganize over the life span in response to the phonetic input received during naturalistic second language (L2) learning. The SLM-r proposes that the mechanisms and processes needed for native language (L1) acq...
Chapter
Full-text available
The lack of appropriate methodology creates an obstacle to progress in L2 speech research. Specific suggestions are provided here regarding how to obtain samples of L1 and L2 speech that are representative of bilinguals’ typical productions of L1 and L2 speech sounds. Recommendations are made regarding methods that might be used to assess the perce...
Chapter
Full-text available
This chapter reviews research examining the acquisition of English /r/ and /l/ by native Japanese (NJ) speakers from the perspective of the revised Speech Learning Model, or SLM-r. The research shows that the English liquids can be learned after the end of the so-called “critical period” for speech learning, but that the two liquids are learned in...
Presentation
Full-text available
Researchers have long know that the quantity and quality of second-language (L2) input that immigrants receive varies importantly according to age of arrival in a predominantly L2-speaking country. Despite this, the role of input in L2 learning has tended to be downplayed or ignored altogether. For example, two recent "large N" studies that attempt...
Article
This study examined productions of three English voiceless fricatives (/f θ s/) produced by native Japanese (NJ) and native English (NE) adults and children (16 participants each in 4 groups). The purpose of this study was to investigate acoustic characteristics of these fricative productions that were evaluated using intelligibility ratings in Aoy...
Chapter
Full-text available
Four hypotheses regarding "age" effects on ultimate L2 proficiency are considered here. All four are found to have some predictive power, but none is perfect. It appears that age-related effects arise from multiple factors that co-vary with the age at which L2 learning began. Of these, the amount and quality of L2 input received, and the strength o...
Article
Full-text available
This study evaluated the effect of input variation on the production and perception of English phonetic segments by native Spanish adults who had immigrated to the United States after the age of 16 years. The native Spanish (NS) participants were assigned to three groups of 20 each according to years of English input (years of U.S. residence multip...
Article
Full-text available
This study evaluated the effect of input variation on the production and perception of English phonetic segments by native Spanish adults who had immigrated to the United States after the age of 16 years. The native Spanish (NS) participants were assigned to three groups of 20 each according to years of English input (years of U.S. residence multip...
Preprint
Full-text available
This study examined the comprehension of Italian by immigrants from central or southern Italy who had lived in Canada for an average of 38 years. Most “Early” learners (individuals who arrived in Canada before age 12) and some “Late learners” (who arrived later in life) comprehended standard Italian very well, but other Late learners did so poorly...
Chapter
Full-text available
Early learners usually enjoy greater success in second-language (L2) learning than Late learners do. This is often interpreted to mean that the capacity for L2 learning diminishes after the close of a critical period. However the seeming limits on Late learners' success in learning an L2 following immigration, even after years of regular L2 use in...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This presentation reviews research examining the perception and production of English /r/ and /l/ by native Japanese (NJ) speakers first exposed to English as adults. The problems that such “Late learners” have with English liquids is not the result of exposure to English after the close of a “critical period” nor to an irreversible “filtering out”...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The critical period hypothesis (CPH) drawn from Lenneberg’s 1967 book continues to be accepted as the best explanation for age-related effects in L2 speech research. However, the CPH generates incorrect predictions regarding overall degree of foreign accent; segmental production and segmental perception. In my view, input is the single most imp...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The critical period hypothesis (CPH) has exerted a strong influence on L2 speech research ever since Eric Lenneberg (1967) observed that people who learn an L2 after puberty usually speak it with a foreign accent. His observation was largely correct, but research going beyond a superficial level of observation yields findings that are incompatible...
Article
Full-text available
The splendid review provided by Mayberry and Kluender (2017) confirms Lenneberg's 1967 hypothesis that a Critical Period (CP) exists for the establishment of a native language. However, Lenneberg's extension of the CP hypothesis to the later learning of an L2, based on his observation that most individuals who learn an L2 after about the age of 13...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Part 1 of my presentation will provide introductory information regarding the voice onset time (VOT) dimension. Part 2 will present research examining the production and perception of /p t k/ and /b d g/ in a second language (L2) and provide some new evidence concerning how the L1 and L2 phonetic subsystems interact in bilinguals who differ in age...
Article
Full-text available
This study investigated the acoustic properties of American English /r/ and /l/ produced by native Japanese (NJ) and native English (NE) speakers. The purpose of this study was to examine the differences in production reported in Aoyama et al. (2004) acoustically. Aoyama et al. evaluated productions of /r/ and /l/ in 64 NE and NJ adults and childre...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This study investigated the acoustic properties of American English /ɹ/ and /l/ produced by native Japanese (NJ) and native English (NE) speakers. The purpose of this study was to examine the differences in production reported in Aoyama et al. (2004) acoustically. Aoyama et al. evaluated productions of /ɹ/ and /l/ in 64 NE and NJ adults and childre...
Article
Full-text available
The effect of age of acquisition on first- and second-language vowel production was investigated. Eight English vowels were produced by Native Japanese (NJ) adults and children as well as by age-matched Native English (NE) adults and children. Productions were recorded shortly after the NJ participants' arrival in the USA and then one year later. I...
Article
Full-text available
This study examined how Japanese adults perceptually related English /r/ and /l/ to consonants in the Japanese inventory, and how they discriminated English /r/-/l/. The three groups (n = 16 each) differed in terms of length of residence (LOR) in the United States. One finding of the study was that amount of exposure to English influenced cross-lan...
Chapter
Full-text available
This work is motivated by the desire to understand why individuals who learn an L2. especially those who began learning the L2 in late adolescence or adulthood, differ from monolingual native speakers of the target L2. A variety of proposals have been offered as to whether or how L2 speech learning is “constrained” in comparison to L1 speech learni...
Chapter
Full-text available
Previous research has shown that Catalan mid-vowel contrasts remain difficult for native Spanish adults to perceive, even those who began using Catalan as an L2 as young children. Here we tested 82 Spanish-Catalan bilinguals first exposed to their L2 by school age (3-6 years) who differed in self-reported use of Catalan. All participated in categor...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This SLATE talk presents the grammaticality judgment test (GJT) results obtained by Flege et al. (1999) for 240 Korean immigrants in greater detail than was possible in the original JML article. The GJT scores obtained for “Early” (AOA 1-8.5 years), “Mid” (9.5-14.5) and “Late” (15.5-22-5) learners were all significantly lower than scores obtained...
Article
Four hypotheses regarding "age" effects on ultimate L2 proficiency are considered here. All four are found to have some predictive power, but none is perfect. This suggests that age effects arise from multiple factors that co-vary with age in ways that are not yet fully understood.
Article
The effect of age of acquisition on first‐ and second‐language vowel production was investigated. Eight English vowels were produced three times in two different words each by 16 native Japanese (NJ) adults and children as well as 16 age‐matched native English (NE) speaking adults. Productions were recorded shortly after the NJ participants’ arriva...
Article
Full-text available
Scaling of degree of perceived foreign accent is common in studies of second language acquisition. Although interval scales are commonly used, it is not known whether accentedness is amenable to linear partitioning (i.e. described by a metathetic continuum) or whether accentedness is resistant to linear partitioning because it has degrees of magnit...
Chapter
Full-text available
Comparatively little attention has been dedicated to the role of input variation in explaining observed differences in second language (L2) learning by children and adults. This study reexamines studies which examined overall degree of foreign accent in groups of 240 Koreans and 240 Italians who learned English as an L2 in North America. The result...
Article
Full-text available
This study examined Japanese speakers' learning of American English dur-ing their first years of immersion in the United States (U.S.). Native Japanese-speaking (NJ) children (n=16) and adults (n=16) were tested on two occasions, averaging 0.5 (T1) and 1.6 years (T2) after arrival in the U.S. Age-matched groups of native English-speaking children (...
Article
Full-text available
Individuals who learn a second language (L2) seldom manage to negotiate the full range of differences between the sound systems of their native language (L1) and that of the second language if they begin learning the L2 beyond early childhood. Most speech errors in an L2 can be traced to differences in the inventory of sounds used in the L1 and L2,...
Article
Full-text available
This study evaluated whether age effects on second language (L2) speech learning derive from changes in how the native language (L1) and L2 sound systems interact. According to the "interaction hypothesis" (IH), the older the L2 learner, the less likely the learner is able to establish new vowel categories needed for accurate L2 vowel production an...
Article
Full-text available
Article
The present feasibility study explored the use of visual information for training vowel production in a foreign language (L2). An optoelectronic glossometer was used to measure tongue-palate distances at four locations along the hard palate and to provide visual feedback specifying tongue targets for English /i,I,æ/ and /α/. Evaluations performed d...
Article
Full-text available
It is uncertain from previous research to what extent the perceptual system retains plasticity after attunement to the native language (L1) sound system. This study evaluated second-language (L2) vowel discrimination by individuals who began learning the L2 as children ("early learners"). Experiment 1 identified procedures that lowered discriminati...
Article
Full-text available
The purpose of this longitudinal study was to evaluate the influence of age (adult vs. child) and length of residence (LOR) in an L2-speaking country (3 vs. 5 years) on degree of foreign accent in a second language (L2). Korean adults and children living in North America, and age-matched groups of native English (NE) adults and children, recorded E...
Article
Full-text available
Immigrants' age of arrival (AOA) in a country where a second language (L2) must be learned has consistently been shown to affect the degree of perceived L2 foreign accent (FA). Although the effect of AOA appears strong, this variable is correlated with other variables that might influence degree of FA. This study examined the pronunciation of Engli...
Article
Full-text available
This study examined the production and perception of English vowels by native Korean (NK) learners of English on two occasions separated by about 1 year. A preliminary experiment revealed that NK adults classified some pairs of contrastive English vowels using two different Korean vowels whereas other pairs showed classification overlap, implying t...
Presentation
Full-text available
From the time Lenneberg (1967) first proposed a "critical period" for second-language (L2) speech learning, many have accepted that the capacity for learning L2 speech is lost or attenuated due to a loss of plasticity (Scovel, 1998, p. 62). It was soon shown that the closure of the hypothesized critical can not be linked to the completion of hemisp...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
In this talk I will (1) define the purpose and scope of the Speech Learning Model; (2) describe the historical context in which it was formally presented in 1995; (3) define the core properties of the SLM; (4) outline some testable predictions generated by the model; (5) outline experiments that would permit the the SLM to falsified (if it were inc...
Article
This study examined the effect of presumed mismatches between speech input and the phonological representations of English words by native speakers of English (NE) and Spanish (NS). The English test words, which were produced by a NE speaker and a NS speaker, varied orthogonally in lexical frequency and neighborhood density and were presented to NE...
Conference Paper
Individuals who speak a second language (L2) are known to produce L2 utterances more slowly (i.e., with longer durations) than native (L1) speakers do. Native-nonnative differences are generally larger for individuals who began learning their L2 as adults ("late" bilinguals) than as children ("early" bilinguals). MacKay & Flege [Applied Psycholingu...
Article
Second language acquisition theorists posit that the performance of adult second language (L2) learners improves up to a certain point but may then fossilize, that is, show little further improvement. However, few empirical studies have tested for changes in L2 production by individual adult L2 learners over an extended period of time. In the prese...
Article
The issue of whether new categories may be established for vowels found in a second language (L2) but not the native language (L1) remains controversial. The present study compared the discrimination of English vowels by native English speakers, early Spanish?English bilinguals, and Spanish monolinguals (n=20 each). Vowels in the control contrast (...
Article
Full-text available
Research has repeatedly shown that utterances produced by non‐native speakers are longer than those of native speakers, even when produced as rapidly as possible. The non‐native speaking rate effect is known to be greater for late than early L2 learners, but may disappear for late learners when very short‐duration L2 utterances are examined. This s...
Article
Full-text available
Previous research has demonstrated that English /r/ is perceptually more dissimilar from Japanese /r/ than English /l/ is for native Japanese (NJ) speakers. It has been proposed by the Speech Learning Model that the more distant an L2 sound (phonetic segment) is from the closest L1 speech sound, the more learnable the L2 sound will be (in: W. Stran...
Article
Full-text available
The aim of this study was to evaluate the acquisition of statistical properties of a second language (L2). Stop consonants are permitted in word-final position in both English and Korean, but they are variably released in English and invariably unreleased in Korean. Native Korean (K) adults and children living in North America and age-matched nativ...
Article
Full-text available
This study examines the perception of English vowels by native speakers of Italian. In two preliminary experiments, Italian university students who had lived in Canada for 3 months were found to have difficulty discriminating because they often identified both members of each contrast as instances of a single Italian vowel. The participants i...
Article
This study examines the perception of English vowels by native speakers of Italian. In two preliminary experiments, Italian university students who had lived in Canada for 3 months were found to have difficulty discriminating /D/-/Lambda/, /epsilon/-/ae/, and /i/-/I/ because they often identified both members of each contrast as instances of a sing...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This study assessed the production and categorial discrimination of English // and // by native Korean (NK) adults and children. A total of 108 participants (72 NK and 36 age-matched native English speakers) were tested twice. The NK participants were further subdivided according to length of residence (LOR) in North America. In Experiment 1, both...
Article
Full-text available
The underlying premise of this study was that the two phonetic subsystems of a bilingual interact. The study tested the hypothesis that the vowels a bilingual produces in a second language (L2) may differ from vowels produced by monolingual native speakers of the L2 as the result of either of two mechanisms: phonetic category assimilation or phonet...
Article
This study examined effects of foreign accent and lexical factors (word frequency and neighborhood density) on the recognition of English words in noise. Two groups of native Spanish (NS) adults differing in overall degree of foreign accent (FA) in English (weaker versus stronger FAs) participated as well as a native English (NE) group. Participant...
Article
This study evaluated potential causes of foreign accent (FA) by including native Italian (NI) speakers with a later age of arrival (AOA) in Canada than in previous studies. Three NI groups (n=18 each) differing in AOA (means=10, 18, and 26 years) participated. Listeners used a 9-point scale to rate sentences produced by the three NI groups and nati...
Article
We examined the effect of a "mismatch" between a listener's phonological representations and speech input on spoken word recognition. Native Spanish (NS) and native English (NE) listeners were asked to write down 80 English words that were presented in noise. The words differed in neighborhood density (ND: dense versus sparse); half were Spanish-ac...
Article
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CODEN - PBLDF5 , Date revised - 2003-10-01 , DOI - LLBA-308591476; 200308045; 1080-692X; PBLDF5 , Last updated - 2011-01-11 , SubjectsTermNotLitGenreText - *English as a Second Language Learning (22130); *Vowels (95650); *Word Frequency (97450); *Familiarity (23800); *Adults (00600); *Elementary School Students (21520); Korean (40950) , The fol...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This study examined the pronunciation of English words produced by 16 native Japanese (NJ) adults and 16 NJ children living in the United States and groups of age-matched native English (NE) controls (16 each). Recordings were made twice, one year apart (Time 1, Time 2). The NJ participants had lived in the United States for 0.5 years at Time 1. Wo...
Article
This study examined the relationship between the perceptual assimilation patterns and the discrimination of English /l/ and /ɹ/ by Japanese speakers. The participants were 50 Japanese adults differing in their length of residence (LOR) in the U.S. In an identification task, they usually identified both English /l/ and /ɹ/ as Japanese /ɹ/. In a rati...
Article
The study evaluated the ability of native Spanish speakers to perceive phonetic differences between Spanish vowels (/i e a o u/) and English vowels (/ieIopen a ocapomegau/). Eighteen adult native speakers of Spanish who were learning English as a second language (L2) in Birmingham. AL were tested at 6-month intervals over a 3.5-year period (T1-T7)....
Article
The aim of this study was to provide insight into why non-natives generally produce longer second-language (L2) sentences than native speakers do. Four groups of 16 Italian-English bilinguals were recruited in Ottawa based on orthogonal differences in age of arrival (AOA) to Canada from Italy (early versus late) and self-reported percentage Italian...
Article
This study examined the influence of the L1 phonetic system on the acquisition of Swedish quantity distinctions. The aim was to test the hypothesis that difficulty in acquiring an L2 contrastive category is related to the role in the L1 of the phonetic feature upon which the L2 category is based. Twenty native speakers each of American English, Lat...
Article
Full-text available
Translation is recognized as a specific linguistic ability in bilinguals. Yet, we know little about what factors influence translation ability, especially at the sentence level. In this study, adults were asked to translate sentences from English (L2) into Italian (L1). We hypothesized that (1) adults with later age of arrival in Canada would perfo...
Article
Full-text available
The primary aim of this study was to determine if fluent early bilinguals who are highly experienced in their second language (L2) can produce L2 vowels in a way that is indistinguishable from native speakers' vowels. The subjects were native speakers of Italian who began learning English when they immigrated to Canada as children or adults ('early...