Segmentals and global foreign accent: The Japanese flap in EFL

Timothy J. Riney, Mari Takada, Mitushiko Ota

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article investigates the relationship between global foreign accent and a more discrete feature of pronunciation?the substitution of the Japanese flap ([]) for English liquids (// and /l/). The percentages of Japanese flap substitutions by 11 Japanese students during their first and fourth years of college were calculated for target // versus /l/, in reading versus spontaneous tasks, and for word-initial singleton (#_V) versus word-initial cluster (#[C]C_V) environments. The number of observations for each speaker ranged from 276 to 318, and individuals' percentages of flap substitutions ranged from 0.4% to 77.8% for all attempts at English liquids. The principal finding was a strong negative correlation (r = -0.805) between percentages of Japanese flap substitution and accent ratings. Furthermore, flaps occurred more often for /l/ than for //, more often for singleton liquids than for liquids in clusters, and more often in spontaneous than in reading tasks. The discussion addresses debate over teaching segmentals versus supra-segmentals and related pedagogical priorities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)711-737
Number of pages27
JournalTESOL Quarterly
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2000


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