Visible Vowels as a Tool for the Study of Language Transfer

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In this paper, we demonstrate the use of Visible Vowels to detect formant and durational differences between L2 and L1 speakers. We used a dataset that contains vowel measures from L1 speakers of French and from L2 learners of French, with Italian, Spanish and English as L1. We found that vowels that are not part of the L1 phonological system are often pronounced differently by L2 speakers. Inspired by the Native Language Magnet Theory which was introduced by Patricia Kuhl in 2000, we introduced magnet plots that relate vowels shared by the French phonological system and the learners’ phonological system—the magnet vowels—to the vowels found only in the French phonological system. At a glance, it can be seen which vowels are attracted to the magnets and which vowels become further away from the magnets. When comparing vowel spaces, we found that the shape of the French vowel space of the English learners differed most from the shape of L1 speakers’ vowel space. Finally, it was found that the vowel durations of the L2 speakers are greater than that of the L1 speakers of French, especially those of the English learners of French.
Original languageEnglish
Article number35
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2024


  • French
  • second language acquisition
  • vowels
  • formants
  • duration
  • Native Language Magnet Theory
  • vowel normalization
  • Visible Vowels
  • language transfer


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