Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 11. Number4  December 2020                                           pp. 207-222

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Perception of the English Phonotactics by Saudi English Majors: A Comparative Study


Awad H. Alshehri
 Department of English Language and Literature
College of Languages and Translation, IMSIU, Saudi Arabia



This paper investigates the perception of phonotactics by Saudi English majors, beginners and advanced. Due to the significance of pronunciation of consonant clusters, which are almost absent from Arabic, this work attempts to find the extent to which beginner and advanced English majors accept or reject permissible and impermissible sounds combinations in the onset position. It also attempts to find whether there are any intervening factors that could influence students’ perception of English phonotactics. The focus was on the consonant clusters occurring in onset position. These clusters included two-sound and three-sound clusters starting the word. Most of the words were pseudowords, and the focus was on whether the students would accept or reject these sounds, and whether there was a significant difference between beginner and advanced students, male and female. The paper also considered some intervening factors that could have influenced students’ performance. To this end, the researcher conducted a survey to test the perception and rejection of certain sounds in some carefully selected pseudowords. The findings showed that most advanced students scored better in permissible sounds while the results were close in the impermissible sounds. There were some factors that could have had some impact on the results, such as living in an English-speaking community, watching English TV, and listening to the news in English. Suggestions for further research would include sounds in the coda position.
Keywords: English phonotactics, impermissible combinations, onset, permissible combinations, Saudi English majors.

Cite as: Awad H. Alshehri, A. (2020). Perception of the English Phonotactics by Saudi English Majors: A Comparative Study.  Arab World English Journal11 (4) 207-222.


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Dr. Awad Hajran Alshehri is an assistant professor of applied linguistics from Saudi Arabia. He
holds a PhD in Applied Linguistics from University of Limerick, Ireland. In addition to teaching
at the College of Languages and Translation, he is the Vice Dean for accreditation and ranking
since August 2017. He has published research papers on syntax, phonetics and phonology in
different journal. ORCID iD