Phoneme Discrimination

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  • Phoneme discrimination refers to the ability to distinguish the vowels and consonants, also known as phonemes, which form the words of a language. For instance, English speakers know that the consonants /b/ and /t/ are part of the English consonant repertoire and that they distinguish words such as boy and toy.

    The importance of phoneme discrimination seems obvious when one encounters the vowels or consonants of a foreign language, especially those that are not present in one's native language. Anecdotes as well as numerous empirical studies show that Japanese speakers have great difficulty distinguishing the English words rock and lock because, to a Japanese speaker, both /x/ and /l/ sound like examples of a single Japanese phoneme. Similarly, it has been shown that Spanish listeners have ...

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