Categorization of European Portuguese oral vowels by Hungarian native speakers: a perceptual study

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentation


Observations on how speakers perceive non-native sounds had led to the conclusion that while some L2 contrasts are easy to discriminate, other contrasts pose difficulties [1]–[7]. Studies on underlying perceptual abilities have shown that similarities between L2 sounds and native categories can influence contrasts’ discrimination in an L2 [1], [2], [6], [7] and that perceptual learning is possible in adults and throughout life [2]–[5]. The Perceptual Assimilation Model, PAM [2], and its extension to L2, PAM-L2 [4], have been widely tested for predictions on discrimination of non-native sounds in naïve speakers and learners [7], [5]. Based on PAM, the present study aims at investigating the perceptual categorization of European Portuguese (EP) oral vowels by Hungarian speakers, and the changes in perception after some contact with EP.
Hungarian is a non-Indo-European language with a phonemic and phonetic vowel inventory of /ɒ aː ɛ eː i iː o oː ø øː u uː y yː/ [8], with no stress-induced vowel quality change [9]. EP has seven phonemic vowels, /a/, /ɛ e/, /i/, /o ɔ/ and /u/, that are respectively realized as [ɐ], [ɨ], [i], [u] and [u] in unstressed position [10]. This vocalic system poses a challenge to Hungarian speakers since there are vowel categories in EP – [ɐ] and [ɨ] – that are absent in Hungarian.
We predicted that the ability of Hungarian native speakers to identify and discriminate contrastive EP sounds would depend on the phonetic proximity of EP vowels with Hungarian sounds. We hypothesized that these speakers would categorize the unstressed vowel [ɐ] into /ɛ/, /eː/ or /ø/, and [ɨ] into /y/ or /ø/, as these are the closest L1 categories to the L2 vowels (Fig. 1). We also expected some differences to occur after exposure to the target-language, and that these differences would be reflected in the categorization results.
Period7 Sep 2021
Event title3rd International Symposium on Applied Phonetics
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Cross-language speech perception
  • Second language acquisition
  • Phonological acquisition
  • Portuguese as a Second Language
  • Vowel categorization