Investigation into Korean EFL Learners’ Acquisition of English /s/ + Consonant Onset Clusters

Jungyoun Choi


This paper investigated the phonological acquisition of English /s/ + consonant onset clusters by Korean learners of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) who varied in their levels of proficiency. The data were collected from twenty eighth-graders in a Korean secondary school, who were divided into two groups according to their proficiency: low- and high-achievement. The major findings were: 1) the high-achievement group did not use a vowel epenthesis strategy in the articulation of the /s/ + consonant onset cluster, unlike the low-achievement group; 2) the duration of /s/ pronunciation was longer in the high-achievement group, as follows: /s/ + stop + liquid, /s/ + stop, /s/ + liquid; 3) the low-achievement group’s duration of oral closure was longer than was that of the high-achievement group, as follows: /s/ + stop + liquid, s/ + stop, and 4) with regard to how /s/ + consonant onset clusters are perceived by native English speakers, /s/ + stop + liquid was related more significantly to the learners’ level of proficiency than were the biliteral consonant onset clusters. Among biliteral onsets, /s/ + stop and /s/ + liquid clusters differed significantly between the groups, while the /s/ + nasal cluster did not.

Keywords: English /s/ + consonant onset clusters, L1 transfer, the sonority sequencing principle, syllable structure, L2 phonological acquisition

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