Perceptual realization of Greek consonants by Russian monolingual speakers

Georgios P. Georgiou, Natalia V. Perfilieva, Vladimir N. Denisenko, Natalia V. Novospasskaya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nonnative sound perception might be challenging for adult listeners since they attune from a very young age to the phonological aspects of their native language and, thus, every nonnative sound is filtered through their first language. The present study investigates the perception of Greek consonants in both Consonant-Vowel (CV) and Vowel-Consonant (VC) syllable context by Russian monolingual speakers. To this purpose, 16 Russian speakers aged 19–26 who are students in a University in Moscow and have no knowledge of Greek participated in the study. The participants were tested in an assimilation task in which they were asked to assimilate Greek consonants to their native language phonological categories and in an AXB discrimination task to examine their ability in discriminating nonnative consonantal contrasts. The predictions of the study were developed using the framework of the Perceptual Assimilation Model (PAM). In the assimilation task, the Russian speakers assimilated, as expected, the Greek consonants [t d g x] to the very similar Russian phonological categories [t d g x]. The Greek consonants [θ ð] were merged with the Russian categories [f z] respectively, while the Greek [ç] fell into the Russian phonological category [xj]. By contrast, the Greek consonant [ɟ] was not perceived as an instance of any phonological category of the listeners’ first language. With respect to the discrimination task, the discrimination scores of the Greek contrasts [θ]-[t], [ð]-[d], [ɟ]-[g], and [ç]-[x] ranged from very good to excellent. The findings indicate that Russian speakers assimilated consonants that are not present in their first language in different phonological categories than those proposed by the literature, and that the feature of consonant palatalization that is present in Russian, assisted the listeners to more consistently identify the Greek palatal fricatives. Moreover, the assimilation of Greek consonants differed in some cases for CV vs. VC context and the discrimination of one Greek contrast was different in CV vs. VC context. In general, the results demonstrate that acoustic features found in the speakers’ first language interfered with the perception of nonnative consonants, and that the assimilation of nonnative fricatives (i.e., [θ ð]) to Russian fricative categories (i.e., [f z]) can be explained by the conformation of the speakers’ native language to the faithfulness constraint, which led the speakers to preserving the continuant feature.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-14
Number of pages8
JournalSpeech Communication
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Greek consonants
  • Perception
  • Phonology
  • Russian speakers


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