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Interlanguage Phonology of Korean Learners of English

HyoukHyouk-Keun Kim June 25, 1999 (with notes and modifications by Thomas E. Payne, May 2005) Korean and English Stops, Phoneme Substitutions, Syllable Structure, Vowel Insertion, Stop Voicing, Nasalization, /n/-Insertion, conclusion 1. Korean and English Stops While Korean has three distinctive stops as phonemes at each of three places of articulation (9 altogether), English has two distinctive stops in each place (6 altogether). English voiceless stops are aspirated in the word initial or in the stressedsyllable initial position, but they are not aspirated after /s/ and after vowels in the unstressed-syllable initial position, and they may remain unreleased in the syllable coda position. The following compares the Korean and English stop phonemes and allophones. The most similar sounds are linked together. (1) Korean and English Stop Phonemes and common Allophones Korean English Phonemes Allophones Allophones Phonemes Phonemes Allophones Allophones Phonemes [p k] [p, /p, [p, t, k] [p, t, k] /p, t, k/ /p, t, k/ /p, t, k/ k/ /p, t, k/

[p, t, k]

[p, t, k]

[p, k] [p, t, k] [b, d, g]

[b, d, g]

/b, d, g/

2. Phoneme Substitutions
Koreans tend to substitute Korean /p , t , k / for English /p, t, k/, and Korean /p, t, k/ for English /b, d, g/, which causes a devoicing problem in the word initial or word final position. [Note: Actually, Major & Faudree (1996) show that voiced stops in word-initial
position are not a big problem to Korean learners of English. They conclude that the subjects overcame the difficulty of voicing in the word initial position. However, according to Ladefoged (1993), native listeners of English differentiate a voiceless stop and a voiced stop in the word initial position by the presence of aspiration not by the presence of voicing, and also those in the word final

position by the duration of preceding vowels not by the presence of voicing, since English stops in those positions are partially devoiced. Thus, the Korean speakers do not seem to have problems in differentiating voiceless stops (= aspirated ones) and voiced stops (= unaspirated lenis ones) in the word initial position. However, many Korean learners of English do not know that the vowel duration is longer before a voiced consonant than before a corresponding voiceless consonant. This must have lead to much poorer result in the production of word final voiced stops in Major & Faudree's (1996)

experiment. ] The following are consonant substitutions (H-B Park, 1992:59) and vowel substitutions commonly made by Korean learners of English:


a. Consonant Substitutions Consonan p, f b/v s/ s/ t d/ z// z// k g

English IL (Korean)

b. Vowel Substitutions English IL (Korean) iy i: i ey ey e a a o ow ow u uw u: ay ay aw y aw oy

3. Syllable Structure
Not only the phoneme inventories but also the syllable structures of English and Korean are quite different from each other. The Korean syllable structure is much simpler than that of English: V, VC, CV, CGV, CVC or CGVC. Furthermore, the syllable coda position is restricted to only lenis stops /p, t, k/, nasals /m, n, / and a lateral /l/.

4. Vowel Insertion
Broselow (1987:272) proposes the following Syllable Structure Transfer Hypothesis: (3) Syllable Structure Transfer Hypothesis When the target language permits syllable structures which are not permitted in the native language, learners will make errors which involve altering these structures to those which would be permitted in the native language. The two strategies for dealing with unfamiliar syllable structure: 1. Cluster simplification (by deletion or insertion), 2. Resyllabification (making more syllables out of the resulting structure) Korean speakers learning English seem to support this hypothesis. For example, they often try to break consonant clusters by inserting a vowel. They also insert a vowel after a fricative or an affricate sound, since fricatives or affricates in the syllable coda position, without vowel insertion, would be neutralized as /t/ in Korean (see the description of SFNR below), e.g. bus might be homophonous with but. Due to this epenthesis, the original syllable-final fricative or affricate is resyllabified as a syllable-initial one, and thus becomes more pronounceable to Korean speakers (Nam & Southard, 1994:267). A high front vowel [i] is inserted after a palatal sound such as /, , , / and a high back unrounded vowel [] is inserted elsewhere (Ahn, 1991:15; Tak, 1996:768, 775). The following are some examples of vowel insertion by Korean speakers: (4) a. Christmas --> [krsmas] b. church --> [: i] In (4b), /r/ in the coda position is deleted, since Korean syllable system does not allow /r/ in this position, and instead its preceding vowel is compensatorily lengthened. On the other hand, H-B Park (1992) insists that Korean speakers insert // [] after a stop, only if its preceding vowel is a tense vowel or a diphthong, giving the following examples: 2

(5) a. [piyk] [kowt] [payp] b. [pk] [kt] [tp]

'peak' 'coat' 'pipe' 'pick' 'good' 'tip'

However, as shown in the variants [keyk] and [keyk] for cake, or in the variants [tayp] and [tayp] for type, vowel insertion may not apply even after a tense vowel or diphthong. K-J Lee (1992) has a similar idea to H-B Park (1992). Exemplifying that dog has two different variants [tok] and [towg] but guide or league are always realized as [kayd] and [liyg], she insists that English syllable-final voiced stops take a following [] after a tense vowel or a diphthong, and that they are unreleased after a lax or simple vowel. In fact, a syllable-final voiced stop tends to take an epenthetic [] quite easily, even if it is preceded by a lax/simple vowel as shown in [kg] for gag.

6. Nasalization (NasR)
The Nasalization (or NasR) seems to be a more serious problem among Korean second language learners of English. Many Koreans pronounce pop music as [pam myuik], and nickname as [nineym] (Nam & Southard, 1994). See Appendix 2 for examples of waveforms and spectrograms.

8. Conclusion
In conclusion, Korean learners of English tend to transfer Korean phonological rules such as SFNR, LSVR, NasR, etc. to English. They also use vowel insertion to approximate permissible Korean syllable structures when speaking English. The degree of transfer consistency of these rules may be different from each other. That is, those who transfer LSVR also seem to transfer NasR, but those who do not transfer NasR do not seem to transfer LSVR. In order to prove this hypothesis, more empirical research is required. Such a research program would be a good tool for judging the development degree of an L2 learner's acquisition of L2 phonology or the degree of his or her fossilization in L2 pronunciation.


Korean Phonology
1. Vowel System
(1) Figure 1. (Simple) Vowel Chart of Korean

Figure 1 expresses only the simple vowels of modern standard Korean. Korean has two pairs of non-low back vowels: high and mid rounded vowels, /u, o/, and high and mid unrounded vowels, / , /. The unrounded back vowels are more forward than their corresponding rounded ones. The distance between two non-high front vowels, /e/ and //, is so close that many Koreans may not distinguish them from each other.

2. Consonant System
(1) Figure 2. Consonant Chart of Korean

One characteristic of Korean consonants, shown in Figure 2, is that there are three distinctive voiceless sounds in the stop and affricate categories (H-B Park, 1992; Kenstowicz, 1994; M-R Kim, 1994; Nam & Southard, 1994; HS Kim & Jongman, 1996). These are (1) (strongly) aspirated sounds /p, t, k, /; (2) unaspirated fortis sounds /p*, t*, k*, */; and (3) unaspirated (or slightly aspirated) lenis sounds /p, t, k, /. In Korean, the number of fricatives is very small compared to that of stops. There are one glottal fricative /h/ and two alveolar fricatives, of which one is a fortis /s*/ and the other a lenis /s/. There are no fricatives such as /f, v, , , z, , /. There are three nasals, /m, n, /. There is only one glide '[ri l]' in Korean, which is complementarily distributed between [r] and [l].

Syllable3. Syllable-Final Neutralization

All the Korean consonants are distinctive only in the syllable onset position, except // which appears only in the syllable coda position. However, just seven of the twenty consonants can appear in the syllable coda position. These are /p, t, k, l, m, n, ]. Other stops, affricates and fricatives are neutralized to lenis stops in the same general place of articulation (H-S Kim, 1990; D-S Park, 1990; J-S Kim, 1992; J-S

Lee, 1992; H-B Park, 1992; Nam & Southard, 1994; HS Kim & Jongman, 1996). The rule can be formulated as follows: Examples of the application of this rule are given in (4): (4)

However, if a particle starting with a vowel is attached to the words in (4), resyllabification occurs and the consonants in the coda position are moved to the onset position of the following syllable before the application of SFNR (3). Let me show some examples, adding a nominative particle "-i" to each word of (4) above. (5)

4. Lenis Stop Voicing

Example (5-d) shows us that there is another phonological rule in Korean. Korean lenis stop and affricate sounds such as /p, t, k, / change into corresponding voiced sounds between two voiced sounds according to the Lenis Stop Voicing Rule (Paik, 1977; H-B Lee, 1982; D-S Park, 1990; J-S Kim, 1992; J-S Lee, 1992; Nam & Southard, 1994; Jun, 1995). Thus, voiced obstruents such as [b, d, g, ] exist in Korean as allophones they are not themselves distinct phonemes. However, the /s/ sound does not change into /z/ between two voiced sounds as shown in (5-e) above. The formulation of this rule and some examples are given below: (6) Lenis Stop Voicing Rule (LSVR)

This rule can apply not only within a word but also across a word boundary, as shown below: 5


This rule does not seem to apply to a compound, nath_al /na #al/ 'each + grain,' since the target consonant is not a lenis stop. However, the rule applies to the word after the application of SFNR (3), preventing it from being pronounced as na_thal /na al/ by resyllabification. The following shows the process of its derivation: (8)

5. Nasalization
An obstruent preceding a nasal is switched into its homorganic nasal sound. This nasalization is not a secondary articulation, but a complete consonant assimilation (Paik, 1977; D-S Park, 1990; Choi, 1991; J-S Kim, 1992; J-S Lee, 1992; Kang, 1992). The following are the examples of (4) above, to which a Korean suffix man 'only' is attached. (9)

According to the above examples, the nasalization rule may be roughly formulated as follows: (10) C --> [+nasal] / V ___ $ [+nasal] ($ = Syllable boundary) However, this rule as stated is too broad there are many exceptions. In the case of (9-c,d,e) for example, different voiceless consonants with different features (i.e., an aspirated alveolar stop /t/, an alveolar fricative /s/, and a palato-alveolar affricate //) become a (voiced) alveolar nasal /n/. Notice that the target obstruent for the application of the nasalization rule is under the environments for both the SFNR (3) and the LSVR (5).

/n/6. /n/-Insertion
In a compound or a derived word, if the last sound of the previous word or prefix is a consonant followed by a /i/ or /j/ of the next word, /n/ is inserted between the two words. The examples are given in (14). This rule applies

before the NasR(11) and provide the environments for the NasR as shown in (14-d). (14)


Spectrograms Waveforms and Spectrograms AllophoneAllophone-based English Pronunciation

Waveform and spectrogram of "to stand against" from "They announce that Abe is expected to stand against evil."

Cluster Simplification
Waveform and spectrogram of "different meaning" from "The word 'vague' must have a different meaning from 'ambiguous.'"

Palatalization and Velarized /l/

Waveform and spectrogram of "told you" from "Who'd told you to look at yourself in silence?"

Waveform and spectrogram of "made of" from "The bag might be made of snake skin."

Korean Accented English Pronunciation

Devoicing due to Neutralization
Waveform and spectrogram of "cab should" from "The word 'cab' should be a short form for 'taxicab.'" 8

vs. Waveform and spectrogram of "cap should" from "The word 'cap' should be an adjective."

Stop Voicing
Waveform and spectrogram of "cap is" from "The cap is red, but I want to paint it black."

vs. Waveform and spectrogram of "cab is" from "The cab is backed into the garage."

Waveform and spectrogram of "cap must" from "A cap must be worn when anybody bakes bread here."

vs. Waveform and spectrogram of "cab must" from "I think the cab must be slower than her new car."

/n/ Insertion

Waveform and spectrogram of "look at yourself" from "Who'd told you to look at yourself in silence?"


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