Mengrou Li(Nanjing University of Science and Technology), Ying Chen(Nanjing University of Science and Technology) and Jie Cui(Nanjing University of Science and Technology)
In both American and British English, tense high vowels [i] and [u] show extreme positions of the tongue and lips in articulation rather than their lax counterparts [ɪ] and [ʊ]. However, the tenseness contrast in English is taught to Chinese learners in classroom by most instructors as duration difference—[i] and [u] are longer than [ɪ] and [ʊ] respectively. The present study therefore examines English production of [i] vs. [ɪ] and [u] vs. [ʊ] by Chinese elementary students and investigates how L2 beginners actually realize the target vowels and how their production resembles that of their classroom instructors and talkers who recorded their teaching materials. The results show that the students differentiated [i] from [ɪ] and [u] from [ʊ] mainly in duration and marginally in F2 but not in F1. Their production was found closer to their English teacher’s than the textbook recordings’ and native English speakers’, suggesting the input from the teachers significantly affects the English production of elementary school students in China.