This study examines the effects of experience in German on the categorical perception of German rounded vowels, namely /uː/, /ʊ/, /oː/, /ɔ/, /yː/, /ʏ/, /øː/, and /œ/, by native speakers of American English (AE). Of special interest is whether more experience in German leads to more accurate perception of German front rounded vowels, namely /yː/, /ʏ/, /øː/, and /œ/, which do not have correlates in American English and are well known to cause perceptual problems for native AE speakers (Strange, Bohn, Trent, & Nishi, 2004). Subjects in this study were students at Brigham Young University that were divided into 4 experimental groups: students at the end of first-semester German with no residency in a German-speaking country (101 group); students at the end of third-semester German with no residency (201 group); students in third-year or higher German courses with less than 4 months of residency (300+ group); students in third-year or higher courses with 16 or more months of residency (300+Resi group). A control group of native German speakers also participated. Subjects completed a forced-choice identification task in which they selected the German word they thought they heard. The results of the task indicate that experience in German did affect native AE-speaking subjects' overall identification accuracy of German rounded vowels. In particular, a statistically significant difference was found between the 101 and 300+Resi groups for all German rounded vowels except /uː/ and /ʊ//, suggesting that experience significantly affected AE subjects' perception of all of these vowels except /uː/ and /ʊ/.



College and Department

Humanities; Center for Language Studies



Date Submitted


Document Type





German, vowels, perception, American English, experience, SLA