Discerning /e/ and /æ/. A Challenging Task or Not?


  • Nikola Dančetović




English vowels, acoustic properties, acoustic analysis, vowel formants, vowel length, English learners


Disproportion between Serbian and English vowel systems often causes problems in the articulation of English vowels in adult EFL learners. Their inability to adequately recognize and pronounce numerous vowels that the Serbian vowel system does not contain is particularly obvious in cases of vowels of the mid and low vowel space area. A typical example of this phenomenon is the case of /e/ and /æ/. This paper presents the findings of a research of the acoustic properties of the two vowels in Serbian EFL senior students. The study comprised both qualitative and quantitative characteristics of vowels in the articulation of ten female and five male participants in a reading task. The acoustic measurements of the vowels included frequency values of the formants F1 and F2 and their length. The results obtained verify the claim that the distinction between the two vowels represents one of the most difficult tasks for Serbian EFL learners.


Almaadeed, N., A. Aggoun, and A. Amira. 2016. Text-Independent Speaker Identification Using Vowel Formants. Journal of Signal Processing Systems 82, 345–356.

Best, C. 1995. A direct realist view of cross-language speech. In W. Strange (ed.) Speech perception and linguistic experience. Baltimore: York Press, 171–204.

Boersma, P. and D. Weenink. 2015. Praat: doing phonetics by computer. Version 6.0.16. [Internet]. Available at: http://www.fon.hum.uva.nl/praat/ [22.11.2015].

Bohn, O. S. and 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.

Collins, B. and I. Mees. 2013. Practical Phonetics and Phonology. London: Routledge.

Dančetović, N. 2017. Fonetsko-fonološka percepcija i produkcija engleskih monoftonga na tercijarnom niovu. Filološko-umetnički fakultet, Kragujevac. Neobjavljena doktorska disertacija.

Deterding, D. H. 2006. The North Wind versus a Wolf: short texts for the description and measurement of English pronunciation. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 36, 187–196.

Escudero, P. 2009. The linguistic perception of SIMILAR L2 sounds. In P. Boersma and S. Hamann (eds.) Phonology in perception. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton, 151–190.

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 et al. 1997. Effects of experience on non-native speakers’ production and perception of English vowels. Journal of Phonetics 25, 437–470.

Gimson, A. C. 1994. Pronunciation of English. 5th Edition. London: Edward Arnold.

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.

Ladefoged, P. and K. Johnson. 2011. Tense and Lax Vowels. A Course in Phonetics. 6th Edition. Boston, MA: Cengage, 98–100.

Llisterri, J. 1995. Relationships between speech production and speech perception in a second language. Proceedings of the 13th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences 4. Stockholm, 92–99.

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

Marković, M. and B. Jakovljević (2016) Phonetic Cue Interpretation in the Acquisition of Non-Native Vocalic Contrast. Godišnjak Filozofskog fakulteta u Novom Sadu 41(1), 215–227.

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

Marković, M. 2015. Phonetic cue interpretation in the acquisition of a non-native vocalic contrast. EPIP4, Proceedings of the 2015 4th International Conference: Issues & Practices. Prague, Czech Republic, 95–96.

Nikolić, D. 2016. Acoustic analysis of English vowels produced by American speakers and highly competent Serbian l2 speakers. Facta Universitatis, Series: Linguistics and Literature 14(1), 85–101.

Paunović, T. 2002. Fonetsko-fonološka interferencija srpskog jezika u percepciji i produkciji engleskih vokala. Niš: Filozofski fakultet.

Paunović, T. 2009. Sounds Serbian? Acoustic properties of Serbian EFL students’ speech, In E. Kitis et al. (eds.) Selected Papers from the 19th International Symposium on Theoretical and Applied Linguistics (ISTAL 19). Thessaloniki, 357–369.

Strange, W. et al. 2004. Acoustic and perceptual similarity of North German and American English vowels. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 115(4), 1791–1807.

Traunmüller, H. 1990. Analytical expressions for the tonotopic sensory scale. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 88(1), 97–100.

Van Son, R. J. J. H. and L. C. W. Pols. 1992. Formant movements of Dutch vowels in a text, read at normal and fast rate. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 92, 121–127.

Wang, H. and V. J. Van Heuven. 2006. Acoustical analysis of English vowels produced by Chinese, Dutch and American speakers. Linguistics in the Netherlands 23(1), 237–248.




How to Cite

Dančetović, N. (2021). Discerning /e/ and /æ/. A Challenging Task or Not?. Philologia, 19(1), 51–64. https://doi.org/10.18485/philologia.2021.19.19.5



Nauka o jeziku/Linguistics