The /s/-/ʃ/ confusion by Japanese ESL learners in grapheme-phoneme correspondence: bias towards [s] and

Akitsugu Nogita


It is generally believed that Japanese English-as-a-second-language (ESL) learners tend to pronounce English /sij, sɪ/ as [ʃij, ʃɪ], such as see and sip as she and ship respectively, and these errors are typically attributed to the Japanese phonotactic constraint *[si(:)]. However, Nogita (2010) reveals that such errors are due to their misinterpretation of the spellings of <s> and <sh>, not due to articulatory and perceptual difficulties. In this present study, I further reinforced Nogita’s (2010) argument by conducting a reading task in which 42 Japanese ESL learners read nonsense words containing <s> and <sh>, and a spelling task in which they spelled nonsense words containing [s] and [ʃ]. In the reading task, I found their strong tendency of mispronouncing <sh> as [s], presumably because they assumed that [s] sounded more English-like. In the spelling task, they misspelled [ʃ] as <s> more frequently than [s] as <sh>, presumably due to kunrei-shiki Japanese romanization interference. Moreover, by 29 of them, their grapheme-to-phoneme conversion and phoneme-to-grapheme conversion patterns were not consistent, indicating that they had not acquired the English GPC rules, <s>-/s/ and <sh>-/ʃ/.


/s/-/ʃ/ confusion, <s>-<sh> confusion, second language grapheme-phoneme correspondence

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Working Papers of the Linguistics Circle

EISSN: 1920-440X
ISSN: 1200-3344

University of Victoria