Department or Program

Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Angela C. Carpenter


I study the phenomenon of errors produced by Korean-English bilinguals in both their first and second languages (L1 and L2). Research has demonstrated that such errors are often due to differences in available phonemes and phonotactic constraints in languages (Flege 1995), or because certain phonological processes in one language are transferred into pronunciations in the L2 (Tsukada et al., 2005). However, these reasons do not account for pronunciation errors in the L1. To study these errors in the L1 and L2, I recorded eleven Korean-English bilinguals (all of Korean descent) reading Korean and English passages. I analyzed vowel production and focused on the production of “constructed” vowels. I posit that these “constructed” vowels result from partially developed phonemes collapsing to form one sound specific to the individual. My findings demonstrate that certain groups of Korean-English bilinguals demonstrate incomplete acquisition of both L1 and L2 phonologies, and thus combine two incomplete phonetic inventories to form one complete, idiosyncratic phonemic inventory, one that is neither fully characteristic of either the L1 or L2, but still contains sounds from both. In sum, I found there to be an overall trend of clustering English vowels and a general shifting of Korean vowels, marked by increased backness. I call upon a more comprehensive model such that both directions – the effects of L1 on L2 as well as the effects of L2 on L1 – can be accounted. Ultimately, my study shows that, regardless of the state of bilingualism, all vowels are prone to change.