Formant Measurements of Serbian Speakers’ English Vowels


  • Andrej Bjelaković



RP vowels, L2 production, vowel quality, EFL students' vowels, formant frequency, Serbian


We present the results of an acoustic investigation of English vowels as produced by Serbian speakers, students in the English Department, Faculty of Philology, University of Belgrade. The number of participants was 26 (13 first-year students, and 13 fourth-year/ MA students), and measured were F1 and F2 of stressed vowels — 11 monophthongs (KIT, DRESS, TRAP, FOOT, STRUT, LOT, FLEECE, PALM, GOOSE, THOUGHT and NURSE) and 4 diphthongs (GOAT, PRICE, MOUTH and FACE). Measurements were also made of the participants’ L1 vowels, with which their L2 vowels were compared. Participants were recorded reading BBC news copy in English, and two very short stories in Serbian. The number of tokens analyzed was 7534 for English (around 305 per speaker), and 4266 for Serbian. The results show that Serbian-speaking learners, at the proficiency level of our informants, do not on the whole substitute their L2 vowels with L1 vowels; on the other hand, they also do not quite reach the qualities characteristic of native speakers, but rather reach compromise values. Exceptions, regarding substitution, are DRESS, and for some informants at least, TRAP (both are substituted by the Serbian short /e/). The vowels that exhibited the largest intergroup differences were GOAT, GOOSE, MOUTH, PRICE, and to a lesser degree THOUGHT, with older students showing more native-like qualities.


Bjelaković, A. 2017. The Vowels of Contemporary RP: Vowel Formant Measurements for BBC Newsreaders. English Language and Linguistics 21(3), 501–532.

Boersma, P. 2013. Acoustic analysis. In R. J. Podesva & D. Sharma (eds.) Research methods in linguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 375–397.

Boersma, P. & D. Weenink. 2014. Praat: Doing phonetics by computer (version 5.4). [Internet]. Available at: [14.3.2018].

Bohn, O.-S. & J. E. Flege. 1992. The Production of New and Similar Vowels by Adult German Learners of English. Studies in Second Language Acquisition 14, 131–158.

Cruttenden, A. 2014. Gimson’s Pronunciation of English. 8th edition. London and New York: Routledge.

Čubrović, B. 2016. Acoustic Investigations of Serbian and American English Vowel Inventories. Beograd: Filološki fakultet.

Čubrović, B. 2017. Low Back Merger in Native and Nonnative Speakers of American English. The Linguistics Journal 11(1), 222–231.

Dančetović, N. & I. Nešić. 2017. Akustička analiza produkcije engleskih monoftonga na tercijarnom nivou. Nasleđe 36, 261–283.

Flege, J. E. 1988. The Production and Perception of Foreign Language Speech Sounds. In H. Winitz (ed.) Human Communication and Its Disorders: A Review. Norwood, NJ: Ablex, 224–401.

Flege, J. E. 1991. Perception and Production: The Relevance of Phonetic Input to L2 Phonological Learning. In C. Ferguson & T. Huebner (eds.) Crosscurrents in Second Language Acquisition and Linguistic Theories. Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 249– 289.

Flege, J. E. 1995. Second language speech learning: Theory, Findings and Problems. In W. Strange (ed.) Speech Perception and Linguistic Experience: Issues in Cross-Language Speech Research. Timonium MD: York Press, 233–277.

Flege, J. E. 2005. Origins and development of the Speech Learning Model. 1st ASA Workshop on L2 Speech Learning, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, BC, 14–15 April, 2005.

Flege, J. E., O.-S. Bohn & S. Jang. 1997. Effects of Experience on Non-Native Speakers’ Production and Perception of English Vowels. Journal of Phonetics 25, 437–470.

Jakobson, R. [1937] 1962. On the Identification of Phonemic Entities. Selected Writings I. The Hague: Mouton, 418–425.

Johnson, D. E. 2009. Getting Off the GoldVarb Standard: Introducing Rbrul for Mixed- Effects Variable Rule Analysis. Language and Linguistics Compass 3 (1), 359–383.

Johnson, D. E. 2017. Rbrul version 3.1.2. [Internet]. Available at: http://www. [14.3.2018]

Krebs-Lazendic, L. 2008. Early vs. Late Serbian-English Bilinguals’ Responses to Two Australian English Vowel Contrasts. Unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Western Sydney. [Internet]. Available at: islandora/object/uws%3A5890. [14.3.2018.]

Krebs-Lazendic, L. & C. Best. 2007. Early and Late Bilinguals’ Vowel Perception and Production: English Vowel Contrasts that Give Serbian-English Bilinguals a H(E)AD-ache. In A. S. Rauber, M. A. Watkins & B. O. Baptista (eds.) New Sounds 2007: Proceedings of the Fifth International Symposium on the Acquisition of Second Language Speech. 282–292.

Krebs-Lazendic, L. and C. Best. 2013. First Language Suprasegmentally-Conditioned Syllable Length Distinctions Influence Perception and Production of Second Language Vowel Contrasts. Laboratory Phonology 4 (2), 435–474.

Labov, W., S. Ash & C. Boberg. 2006. The Atlas of North American English. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

Lehiste, I. & P. Ivić. 1986. Word and Sentence prosody in Serbo-Croatian. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Lobanov, B. M. 1971. Classification of Russian Vowels Spoken by Different Speakers. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 49, 606–608.

Marković, M. 2007. Kontrastivna analiza akustičkih i artikulacionih karakteristika vokalskih sistema engleskog i srpskog jezika. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Univerzitet u Novom Sadu.

Marković, M. 2009a. Different Strategies in Acquiring L2 Vowels: The Production of High English Vowels /i, ɪ, u, ʊ/ by Native Speakers of Serbian. In B. Čubrović & T. Paunović (eds.) Ta(l)king English Phonetics Across Frontiers. Cambridge: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 3–18.

Marković, M. 2009b. The perception and production of the English vowels /e/ and /æ/ by native speakers of Serbian. In A. Tsangalidis (ed.) Selected papers from the 18th International Symposium of Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. Thessaloniki: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, 253–262.

Marković, M. 2012. Uporedna proučavanja vokala engleskog i srpskog jezika: između univerzalnog i specifičnog. Novi Sad: Filozofski fakultet.

Marković M. & B. Jakovljević. 2013. The Acquisition of Еnglish Diphthongs by Advanced Serbian ESL Learners: A Production Study. Zbornik Matice srpske za filologiju i lingvistiku 56 (2), 117–130.

Marković, M. & B. Jakovljević. 2016. Аcquiring Vocalic Quantity and Quality in L2: The Acquisition of Vowel Clipping in English by Advanced Serbian Learners. Zbornik Matice srpske za filologiju i lingvistiku 59 (2), 97–108.

Mlinar, R. 2011. Pronunciation of English Diphthongs by Speakers of Serbian: Acoustic Characteristics. Master’s thesis. University of Novi Sad.

Paunović, T. 2002. Fonetsko-fonološka interferencija srpskog jezika u percepciji i produkciji engleskih vokala. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Univerzitet u Nišu.

Paunović, T. 2011. Sounds Serbian? Acoustic Properties of Serbian EFL Students’ Speech. In E. Kitis, N. Lavidas, N. Topintzi & T. Tsangalidis (eds.) Selected Papers from the 19th International Symposium on Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. Thessaloniki: Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, School of English, Department of Theoretical & Applied Linguistics, 357–369.

Sudimac, N. 2016. Kontrastivna analiza visokih/zatvorenih vokala u produkciji izvornih govornika britanskog engleskog i srpskog jezika. Filolog 14, 36–55.

Thomas, E. R. & T. Kendall. 2007. NORM: The vowel normalization and plotting suite. [Internet]. Available at: [14.3.2018].

Wells, J. C. 1982. Accents of English. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wells, J. C. 1997. Whatever Happened to Received Pronunciation? In C. Medina Casado & C. Soto Palomo (eds.) II jornadas de estudios ingleses. Universidad de Jaén, 19–28.

Windsor Lewis, J. 1995. Changes in British English Pronunciation During the Twentieth Century. English Language Teaching News 25, 88–89. changestwe.html




How to Cite

Bjelaković, A. (2021). Formant Measurements of Serbian Speakers’ English Vowels. Philologia, 16(1), 17–43.



Nauka o jeziku/Linguistics