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Phonological Differences between Persian and English:

Several potentially problematic Areas of


Pronunciation for Iranian EFL Learners

Adrisor: Dr. Gorjian

Written by : M . Bakhtiarvand

M. A In TEFL

Research and science center of


Islamic Azad university
Of Ahvaz

2005-2006

Acknowledgement

This article has grown out of different classes in foreign language teaching, contexts ,
that I have taught at Gotvand Junior high- schools. My first debt of gratitude is
therefore to my students for their insights, enthusiasm , and support.
I am also grateful to faculty colleagues at Research and Science
Center of Islamic Azad university of Ahvaz .
And my Best to my professor Dr . Gorjian who like an honest father help me in this
way.
The last not the least, to sommayeh my wife,life time companion , and best friend
thanks for believing in me and her enthusiasm.

Morteza Bakhtiarvand
December 2005
Andimeshk

Abstract:

In light of the fact that L2 pronunciation errors are often caused by the transfer of
well-established L1 sound systems, this paper examines some of the characteristic
phonological differences between Persian and English. Comparing segmental and
suprasegmental aspects of both languages, this study also discusses several
problematic areas of pronunciation for Iranian learners of English. Based on such
contrastive analysis, some of the implications for L2 pronunciation teaching are
drawn.

Introduction

The fact that native speakers of English can recognize foreign accents in ESL/EFL
learners' speech such as Spanish accents, Japanese accents, Persian accents, Arabic
accents , Chinese accents, etc. Is a clear indication that the sound patterns of structure
of their native languages have some influence of the speech or production of their
second language. In other words, it is quite reasonable to say that the nature of a
foreign accent is the determined to a large extent by a learner's native language
( Avery & Enrich, 1992) . thus , the pronunciation errors made by second language
learners are considered not to be just random attempts to produce unfamiliar sounds
but rather reflections of the sound inventory, rules of combining sounds, and the
stress and intonation patterns of their native languages ( Swan & Smith, 1987) .
Such observation of L2 pronunciation errors above, in turn , naturally suggests the
critical need for ESL/EFL teachers to become more aware of the impact that learners'
L1 backgrounds would bring to the learning of English pronunciation. In order to
identify specific areas of pronunciation difficulties caused by L1 phonological
transfer , teachers need to cultivate a firm understanding of the differences between
English and the native language of the learners.
Of course it is practically impossible for teachers working in an ESL situation as in
the U.S. to understand all the phonological differences between English and the
native languages of all the students , but it is also true that having such knowledge
can be quite an advantage especially for teachers working in an EFL situation as in
Iran.
Although contrastive analysis has often been criticized for its inadequacy to predict
the transfer errors that learners will make in actual learning contexts ( Whitman &
Jackson, 1972 ), it cannot be easily denied that " such interference those exist and can
explain difficulties" ( Brown,1994, P . 200) ,especially in the phono logical aspects of
second language learning .In this sense , the significance of contrastive analysis may
not necessarily lie in the predictability of transfer errors, but rather in the explanatory
potential of learner errors that teachers encounter in their daily practices (CelceMurcia & Howkins , 1985).

This paper thus, examines some of the characteristics phonological differences


between Persian and English by focusing on segmental and suprasegmental aspects of
both languages, and through comparison between the two languages , this study also
points out several problematic areas of pronunciation for Iranian learners of English.
Segmental Aspects of English and Persian .

Contents :

Contents
Topic
Acknowledgement
Abstract
Introduction
Experiments And data analysis
Tests
Scores
Statistics
Tables and Graphs
Analysis
Results
Pedagogical implications
Conclusion
References

Page

Vowels
Comparing the Persian vowel system with that of English reveals some significant
differences in the following two areas : 1) The number of vowels and 2) Tense / lax
distinctions .
In the English vowel system, there are 15 different vowels identified, which include
several diphthongs such as /aw /,/ay/, and /oy/. On the other hand , Persian has only 5
vowels in its vowel inventory, a system quite common among many natural
languages in the world ( Kenworthy , 1987) . Although the number vowels that can be
identified in English and Persian can differ depending on different analysis of
linguists or phoneticians , it is obvious that there are considerably more vowels in
English than in Persian(see table 1).

Table 1 : vowel charts

Persian
Front
high

I:

mid

low

ae

English

Front
high

mid

low

central

back

ae

O
e

central

back
U:

Another characteristic that typically differentiates the English vowel system from the
Persian vowel system is whether there exists the distinction between lax and tense
vowels in either of the two system .
The differentiation between tense and lax is made according to how much muscle
tension or movement in mouth is involved in producing vowels(Ladefoged ,1982)
Thus, vowels produced with extra muscle tension are called tense, and vowels
produced without that much tension are called lax vowels. For example, /i/ as in
English /it/ " eat" is categorized as a tense vowel as the lips are spread (muscular
tension in the mouth) and the tongue moves toward the root of the mouth.
On the other hand, /I/ as in English " it " is considered to be a lax vowel as there is
little movement of the tongue or muscular tension of the lips involved in its
production, compared to the manner in which the tense vowel /i/ as in " eat " is
produced .
As shown in table 1&2 ,the tense/ laxvowels pairs of English
five- /, /u/Vs./ such as /i/ Vs. /I/, /e/ Vs /

/ , do not exist in the

Vowel system of Persian as there is no tense /lax differentiation. It should be noted,


however, that although long vowels of Persian are sometimes analysed as having the
same quality as English tense vowels, this claim is difficult to support ,
Because those vowels of Persian are not always contrastive in nature as English tense
/lax vowel pairs (Vance, 1987) .

Consonants

As with the differences in the vowel systems, there are also noticeable differences in
consonantal distributions between
Persian and English. The table3 , which shows the consonant system of each
language, clearly illustrates the fact that there are more consonants in Persian than in
English (Avery & Ehrlich , 1992; Kenvorthy , 1987) . In the vertical column of
manner of articulation, we can notice that there is no (***) affricate found in Persian .
Then,looking at the horizontal column of place of articulation, there is a variety of
fricatives and nasal which are much more widely distributed in English than in
Persian .

/, (***),and (***) do not exist in the Persian consonantal /w/, /

System .
Table 3: classification of consonants according to place and manner of articulation
Persian aud Euglish

English & persian

Another difference in the consonantal in the distribution between Persian and English
is that there exist some consonants found in the consonant inventory of Persian but
not in that of English , such as the voiceless uvular stop /gh/ and voiced uvular stop

/q/ as in the Persian words "qasr" (casstle) and "gham"( sadness ) respectively
( ladefoged, 1982 ).

Although Persian has a semivowel consonant as shown in the Table 3, the semivowel
dose not exactly correspond to the English semivowels /v/, /w/ , but rather it is
considered to be an in between sound of English(***) and /w/ . The exact articulation
point is not specified for the Persian /w/ sound .
Thus, the most characteristic difference between Persian and English consonantal
systems lies not in the number of consonants found in each of the two languages but
rather in the unique distribution patterns of consonants in both languages.

Syllable types
Comparing several words from English and Persian can tell us some of the
characteristic differences in the way that each language utilizes syllables for froming
a word . some of the examples that illustrate English syllable types are :
Word . Transcription . syllable type
... see .[siy] c(onsonant) v (owel)
... sit . [sit] cvc
spit ...[spit] .. ccvc
spits .[spits] . ccvcc
sprint [sprint] .. cccvcc
From these examples, we can say that English allows a wide variety of syllable types
including both open and closed syllables: CV (open syllable), CVC CCVC, CCVCC,
CCCVCC (closed syllables). On the other hand , the syllable types that allows seem
to be restricted to one open syllables/ and two close syllables.
word meaning . Syllable
ba with .. CV
... toop . Ball ..

CVC

satr .. line

CVCC

The fact that Persian words of more than one syllable always follow the CV syllable
sequence clearly shows significant characteristics of Persian syllables, which are
different from
those of English (Reiney & Anderson Hsieh, 1993).

1) Persian does not allow a word to start with a vowel.


2) Persian does not permit both two initial and two final consonants
clusters(i.e.,CCVCC syllable).

Thus, in general, English has a wider range of syllable types thanPersian and also it
allows the occurance of consonant clusters both at the word initial and final position
( Avery and Ehrlich, 1992).
It should be noted , however, that although English permits initial and final consonant
clusters, there are some restrictions on the possible combinations of consonants when
realized in consonant clusters. For example, the two nonsense words "blick" and "
bnick" both contain initial consonant clusters /bi/ and /bn/ but the only permissible
consonant combination is /bi/ , not / bn /;thus native speakers of English would
consider "bnick" to be a very odd word
.
5.SYLLABLE STRUCTURE
The sounds that result from one chest pluse from a syllable. In its minimal from, a
syllable consists of a vowel. In addition to the vowel a syllable may consist of one or
more consonants that appear on either or both sides of the vowel. In some languages
like Japanese , most often the syllable is composed of one consonant followed by one
vowel. These languages are called syllabic languages. In syllabic languages, each
syllable is represented by a symbol ( called syllabary) in the writing system. The
word TOYOTA from the Japanese language for example includes three syllables:
TO , YO, and TA . Therefore
the syllable structure of most Japanese syllables is very simple: Consonant+ vowel
(CV ). Most languages are, however, alphabetic in that symbols( called characters or
letters ) in their orthography represent sound segments or phonemes rather than
syllables. In these languages, the consonants and vowels are arrayed in a linear
fashion to represent the syllables , words , sentences, etc . Arabic and Hebrew ,
however , tend to arrange their consonants in a linear fashion , and superscribe or
subscribe their vowels as diacritics or sporadic features above or under their
consonants. As such, Arabic and Hebrew can ironically be called betagamic rather
than alphabetic languages. Many of the most famous languages of the world,
including English, are, however, alphabetic in the sense that they represent both their

vowels and consonants in the form of lettrs in their orthography. In such languages,
words are composed of one or more syllables . A syllable is aphonological unit
composed of one or more phonemes . Every syllable has a nucleus,which is usually a
vowel( but which may be a syllabic liquid or nasal) .
The nucleus may be preceded by one or more phonemes called the syllable onset and
followed by one or more segments called the coda.Englisjh is an alphabetic language
which has a complex syllable structure . the syllable structure of English has been
presented in table 2.4 below .

SYLLABLE STRUCTURE
V
CV
CCV
CCCV
CVC
CCVC
CCCVC
CCCVCC
VC
VCC
VCCC
CVCC
CVCCC
CCCVCCC
CCVCC

EXAMPLE
l/aI/
key /ki:/
tree/tri:/
spree/spri:/
seek/si:k/
speak/spi:k/
scram/skraem/
striped/straIpt/
an/aen/
ant/aent/
ants/aents/
pant/paent/
pants/paents/
splints/splInts/
Stamp/staemp/

Table 2.4 : Syllable structure of English

Table 2.4 has used the symbol C to represent consonants and the symbol V to
represent vowels . Notice that the syllable structure of English includes at least fifteen
different types of syllables.:
In yhis connection , it is interesting to notice that in alphabetic languages , the number
of vowels that appear in a word can be used as an index for determining the number
of syllable that make that word . A close look at the syllable structures presented in
table2.4 above reveals that , in English, consonant clusters can occuer in both syllable
initial and syllable-final positions(i.e.,as onest or coda ). Moreover , consonant

clusters are not limited to two consonants in English. In a word like street three
consonants cluster together at the beginning of the syllable to produce a CCCVC
syllable. Another interesting observation is that vowels can initiate syllables in
English.
The syllable structure of Persian is, however , different . on the one hand , Persian
syllables cannot be initiated with vowels; even words that seem to start with a vowel
include the glottal stop /?/ as the syllable on a onset . on the other hand, syllableinitial consonants clusters are impossible in Persian. In addition , syllable- final
consonant clusters in Persian normally take no more than two consonants in their
structures . As such ,most Persian syllable belongin one of the three syllable
structures( I.e., CV,CVC,or CVCC) presented in table 2.5 below . take the following
Persian examples:

PERSIAN SYLLABLES
CV
CVC
CVCC

EXAMPLE
ba/ba: / meaning with
toop/tu:p/ mening ball
satr/saetr/ meaning line
abr/?aebr/ meaning cloud

Table 2.5 : Persian syllable structure

The differences between thesyllable strucvture of Persian and English are responsible
for a good portion of Iranian EFL learners' pronunciation problems.
In fact, many Iranian EFL learners tend to insert the vowel / e/ in many monosyllabic
English words to make yhem readily pronounceable. In addition, since Persian
syllables cannot be initiated by vowls, many Iranian EFL learners start pronouncing
vowel initial English syllables with the consonant /?/ . The term Penglish is
sometimes used to refer to Persian pronunsiatian of English words. The result of such
mispronunciation is that many monosyllabic English words are rendered as bi- or trisyllabic by some Iranian EFL students. Take the following example:
EXAMPLE
Out
Tree
Dress

PRONUNSIATION MISPRONUNSIATION
/aut/
/?aut/
/tri:/
/teri:/
/dres/
/deres/

Street
Sky

/stri:t/
/skai/

/?esteri:t/
/?eskai/

English Phonem es -Consonants

Manner
Stops

(**

(***)
voiceless

(**

(**
T
D

(**

(*
K
g

(*

Voiced
b
Affricates

Voiceless
voiced

Fricatives

Voiceless
voiced

F
v

C
j
S
z

Lateral
Nasals
Semivowels

Phoneme Key Word


b
bat
d
Dog
F
Fat
G
Go
H
Hat
J
Jump
K
Kick
L
Lump

voiced
Voiced
Voiced

m
w

Phoneme Key word


M
Man
N
Nor
P
Pat
R
Rat
Thin

This

S
see
(***)
shoe

I
n
r

Phoneme
t
v
w
y
z
(***)
(***)
(***)

Keyword
Tag
Vat
We
Yes
Zoo
Azure
Church
Sing

English Phonemes - Vowels


Front
i
(bi
+1

Central

Back
u
(good)

(***)

(but)

e
(bet)

(***)

High

Mid
O
(ball)
Low

a
(pot)

(bat)

(bought)

Unround

Round

Iy =(***)
ay = (***)
Ey =
uw =

ow =

Figure 8.10
segments
p

Vocalic

Consonantal

continuant

nasal

Abrupt

lateral

voice

tense

features

release

aspiration

strident

anterior

coronal

high

low

back

round

Segments

features
-

vocalic

consonantal

Continuant

nasal

Abrupt release

Lateral

voice

+ -

Tense

Aspiration

Strident

Anterior

coronal

High

Low

Back

round

relevant features in the following order :( 1) voicing (voiced, voice lees), (2) position
of articulation (labial, dental, alveolar, palatal, velar) . (3) Degree of obstruction to the
air stream (stop, fricative) or action of the velum (nasal). Thus, [p] is described as a
voiceless labial stop, while [z] is a voiced alveolar fricative and [n] is a voiced velar
nasal. Vowels are described by citing (1) tenseness [tense, nontense (also referred to
as lax)], (2) the tongue height (high, mid, low), and (3) the tongue position (front,
central, back),(4) rounding ( rounded , unrounded ) , and (5) the fact that the sound is
a vowel. Therefore, [i] is a tense high front unrounded vowel, whereas [ ] is a lax
(nontence)
Mid central unrounded vowel. Other features can be added to these description when
additional detail is required.

Test of the vowels sound/n/,/u/and/u:/


Exercises

1. Listen to this student. Do the underlined words have an


Or/U: / / /

Sound? Write them in the corre part of the table.

I studied English at a school in London last summer. I was there for


two months: May and June. England is famous for bad food and
weather, but I thought the food was good. The pub lunches were very
nice. But it's true about the weather. Too mush rain for me!

/u: /
school

/ /
Studied

Follow up: listen again and repeat sentence by sentence.

2. Complete these sentences with words from the box. The vowel sound is given.
Listen, check and repeat.
Brother

wood

Month

June

moon
would

juice
full

won
cup

Son

good

Example

Two things you can.. /u/ on a foot is a shoe and a.../u: /


After/u:/is July. / 1. The /
.

/ 2. My mother's other ./

/ / Is my .

In 2002. / / The world.. / / 3. Brazil ..


4. Fruit ./u:/ is ./u/ for you.
5. There is a /u/ /u: /once a month.
6. You pronounce . /u/ exactly the same as ..../u/.
3. Circle the word with the different vowel sound. You can use a dictionary if you are
not sure.
Example foot look

blood

push

1. soon

book

boot

room

2. rude

luck

run

but

3. shoes

does

true

blue

4. pull

full

put

rule

5. group

could

would

6.done

move

love

7. south

young

couple

should
son
won

4. Listen and circle the word you hear. If you find any of these difficult, go to section
D4 sound (***) for further practice.
1.Cut or cat?

There 's a cut /cat on the arm of the sofa.

2. come or calm ?

you should try to come / calm down .

3. gun of gone ?

He's taken his dog and gun/gone.

4. shoes or shows?

I've never seen her shoes /shows on TV.

5.pool or pull?

It said ' pool ' / ' pull' on the door .

6. luck or look?

It's just her luck/look !

7. shirt or shut ?

The hairdresser's shirt /shut.

8. A gun or a gain?

He shot a gun /again.

Test of vowel sounds /3:(r)/and / / (r)/


Exercise
1. write these numbers out in full. Which of the two vowel
or / : / sounds do they contain? Write / : /
/ : / Example 3rd.third.

1
1. ..
4

2. 30
3.4th.
4. 1st.
5. 14
2. Find 14 words in the puzzle ( every letter is used once) and write them in the
correct part of the table . the words are written
).

) or vertically ( horizontally

: / Words with/
Bird

Words with / : /

3. Listen to these sentences. Is the accent from Britain or America? Write B or A


EXAMPLE The girl's first birthday.
1 Its hard work, of course. ..
2 Are you sure? .

3 Law and order . ..


4 I walk to work. ..
5 I saw the bird fall. .
6 He was born on Thursday the thirty-first.

the

b b t c o
i a u h w
r i r e o
a r r e i
r r r
I a w d

7 she taught German.

u r s e
s w a r
o h g m d i n
o s a w r d t
a i

8 I learned to surf in Brazil.

9 'Caught' and 'court' sound the same in my accent. ...


4. Listen and circle the word you hear. If you find any of these difficult, go to Section
D4 sound pairs for further practice.

1. Four or far?

It isn't four/far.

2. Worst or west?

It's on the worst /west cost.

3. Walk or woke?

I walk/ woke the dog.

4. Shut or shirt?

The butcher's shut/shirt.

5. Port or pot?

There's coffee in the port /pot.

6. Bird or beard?

He has a black bird /beard.

7. Her or hair?

Is that her /hair?

8. Worked or walked?

We worked/walked all day.

Test of consonant sounds /0/and/0/:


Exercise

1. Find a way from start to finish . You may pass a square only . . You can move
horizontally / / if the word in it has the sound
( ) or vertically ( ) Only.
START

north

northern

either

weather

breathe

those

south

bath

bathe

thought

breath

youth

suthern

tird

teir

trough

tough

thumb

tailand

coth

pth

ffth

wth

worth

mnth

cothes

tese

bother

tat

teeh

throw

ting

athor

oher

tey

wealth
FINISH

2. Complete this rhyme using words from the box. Then listen and check.
Earth

heather

neither

mothers

brothers

together

birth

either
Arthur had a brother..

They wanted was a .

And he didn't want another

So Arthur's mother

And of the brother's , .

Got them both

Wanted sisters ..

.And told them all good..

The last thing on this .. .

Should learn to share their ..

Follow up : listen to the poem again . Pause the recording after each line and repeat it.

3. Think of a computer which people speak in to and it writes what they say. This
computer wrote the sentences down wrongly. Correct the underlined mistakes.

EXAMPLE It's free o'clock. ....three.


1. A bat is more relaxing than a shower.
2. The train went true the tunnel.
3. Dont walk on the ice; it's very fin .

4.You need a sick coat in winter .


5. I don't know ; I haven't fought about it . .
6. it's a matter of life and deaf . ..
4.listen and circle the word you hear . if you find any of these difficult, go to section
D4 sound pairs for further practice .
1. youth or use ?

there's no youth / use talking about that .

2. thought or taught ?

I dont know what she thought /taught.

3. free or three ? Free/ three refills with each packet?


4. closed or clothed ?

They weren't fully closed /clothed.

5. Breeding or breathing?

They've stopped breeding /breathing.

6. these are our visa ? These are / visa problems we can deal with later.

Test of the consonant souds /m/, /and/


Exercises
1. read this conversation . it contains 19 examples of the sound
(/ does it m) . How many examples of the sound /n/ and /
Contain? Write your answers. Then listen and check.
I met a man near the monument this morning. He
was a singer and sang a song for me. I'll always
remember that magic moment. Like something out
of a dream!

What , is that the moment, the


monument or the man you meant?

2. Find away from start to finish. You may pass a square only / . if the word in it
has the sound /

) only. ) or vertically ( You can move horizontally (


START

sing

think

thick

strong

wrong

rung

sign

uncle

unless

drug

strange

comb

thanks

angry

signal

drank

Eglish

finger

anxious

angel

single

monkey

money

young

language

tongue

skiing

skin

came

ink

lounge

danger

band

dream

swim

wing
FINISH

3. Complete this conversation using words from the box .then

Listen and check.

Worn

warm

thing thin

Sid: Hey, Joe, your coat is very worn.


Joe: No, it isn't .. .I always feels cold in this coat.
Sid: No, not ! I said ., with an N!
Joe: oh , . .with an N!
Sid: yes, the cloth is
Joe: What do you mean " the cloth is .. " ?
Sid: No,..with an N at the end , not . With a G at the end!
4. Listen and circle the word you hear. If you find any of these difficult, go to section
D4 sound pairs for further practice.

1. Robin or robbing? My friend likes Robin Banks / robbing banks.


2. Ran or rang? Tom ran /rang yesterday.
3. Swing are swim? She had a swing/ swim in the garden.
4. Warned or warmed?

The son warned / sun warmed me.

5. Singing or sinking? The people were singing / Sinking fast.

Test of the sounds /h/,/w/and/j/:


Exercise
1. Add on of these sounds to the start of these words to make other words: /h/, /j/, /w/.
Think of sounds and spelling!
Example air hair, where..

1. Earth

6. eyes 11. I'll

2. ear

7. all..

12. eat .

3. Or.

8. aid

13. ache

4 . in ...

9.ill

14. eye..

5. eight ..

10. art .

15. Old .

2. In these groups of words, three of the words begin with the same consonant sound.
You can use a dictionary.
Example

hour

half

home

high

1. union

used

under

university

2. water

whale

whole

window

3. when

who

where

which

4. year

euro

uniform

untie

5. how

honest

healthy

happy

6. one

write

world

waste

3. each sentence contains four or five examples of one of these sounds : /h/ , /w/, /j/.
write the phonemic letter under the sounds in the sentences .

Example A fusion of Cuban and European music . / j/


j

1. Your uniform used to be yellow. / j/


2. Haley's horse hurried ahead / h/
3. This is a quiz with twenty quick questions. /w/
4. We went to work at quarter to twelve./w/
5. New York University student's union . /j/
6. The hen hide behind the hen house. / H/
7. Which language would you like to work in? / w/

4. Listen and circle the word you hear. If you find any of these difficult, go to section
D4 sound pairs for further practice.
1. Art or heart?

This is the art /heart of the country.

2. Hearing or earring?
3. West or vest?

She's lost her hearing / earring.

The west / vest is very warm.

4. Aware or of air? They weren't made aware / of air.


5. Use or juice?

What's the use / juice?

6. Heat or sheet?

I can't sleep in this heat / sheet

Suprasegmental Aspects of

English

and

persian

Suprasegmental asoects of aspects of the English sound system such as


rhythm,stress, and intonation are often distinguished from the segmental aspects such
as consonants and vowels
Discussed earlier. These suprasegmental aspects of English are also considered to be
different from those of Persian in many respects.
Rhythm : Stress Timed / Syllable Timed
According to Ladefoged (1982) , the term " stress- timed / syllable timed " is used
to characterized the pronunciation of languages that display a particular type of
rhythm in stress
Timed languages, there is a tendency that sressed syllables recur at regular intervals,
regardless of the number of unstressed syllables that intervene in a sentence . In other
words, the amount of time it takes to say a sentence in stressed- timed language
depends on the number of syllables
That receives stress, either minor or major ,not on the total number of syllablrs
( Avery & Ehrilch, 1992).
In syllable-timed languages on the other hand, the syllables are said to occuer at
regular intervals of time , and the amount of time it takes to say a sentence dependes
on the number of syllables in the sentence, not on the number of stressed syllables as
in stressed- time languages.
According to Catford (1977) , English in categorized as a stress timed language and
syllable timed language . For example , it would take approximately the same
amount of time to say the following two English sentences, even though the number
of syllables in each sentence differs .
.Birds /eat/worms.
.... The birds / will have eaten / the worms.
.1 .. 2......3
That is ," the intervals between stressed syllables in speech are either equal or at least
more nearly equal than the intervals between the nucleus of each successive syllable
and next " (Matthews, 1997, p. 355). Although vance (1987) has raised some doubts
as to whether stressed syllables in English are indeed isochronal , Ladefoged (1982)

notes that such a general tendency of stress-timed languages might be applicable to


English as well.
In Persian , however , each of the equivalent sentences of English examples above
would take different amount of time to complete each of the sentences:
.......(**********)

(**********)

(16 syllables)
(********)
As is apparent from these examples, the amount of time to say a sentence in Persian
differs , depending on how many syllables the sentence contains' not how many
stressed syllables it contains as in the English examples.
Stressed: pitch Accent language/ Stressed Accent Language
Although both English and Persian are similar in having word
Stressed, they differ in terms of how word stressed is realized
In creating characteristic stress patterns of each language. In English, sressed
syllables are marked primarily by making vowels longer and louder, while in Persian
syllable stressed in vowels simply saying vowels at a higher pitch. Such difference in
stress realization between Persian and English is often referred to as the distinction
between pitch accent and stress
accent languages ( Gimson,1989). The notion of stressed accent seems quite relevant
to the existence of reduced or unstressed vowel called "shwa" in English , for it is
considered a natural phenomenon that if significantly strong stress is placed on a
particular single vowel or syllable in a word, other vowels or syllables in the same
word become less significant and their reduction process is facilitated. In addition , it
can be said that this way of making stress greatly contributes to creating a stresstimed rhythmic pattern of English(Dalton& Seidlhofer, 1994) . In contrast to English
stress patterns , Persian use of pitch in making stress can explain in the syllable timed
rhythmic patterns of Persian, in that using slightly higher pitch to mark stress does not
make a particular vowel or syllable in a word prominent in quality, compared to other
vowels or syllables uttered at a slightly lower pitch. Thus, the amount of time to say a
sentence in Persian is not restricted to the number of stressed vowels or syllables as in
English.

Intonation

Introduction patterns of English and Persian have some characteristics in common


such as final rising intonation pattern as used in yes- no question or final rising
falling as used in statements, commands , and wh- questions , but the difference
between the two languages is the degree of pitch
changes utilized in creating rising or falling intonation contours ( Wong, 1987) . For
example Persian is often said to use less pitch variation than English. In other words,
Persian and English have different pitch functions in uttering a sentence. English
pitch changes occur in conjunction with the major sentence stress which is usually
placed on a stressed syllable in the final content word , to convey the meaning of
sentences, while Persian mainly uses pitch changes to mark stress on the word level,
whitch results in producing a so-called "monotonous" intonation contours typical of
Peresian speech patterns (Avery & Ehrlich, 1992).
Specific Problem Areas for Iranian learners of English Pronunciation Problems:
Segmentals
Segmental differences between Persian and English sound system reveal several
potentially problematic areas that Iranian learners of English encounter in their
production of English consonants and vowels.

Vowels
As is pointed out in the earlier sections on the English and Persian vowel system,
there are apparently more vowels present in English than in Persian . The fact that the
Persian vowel inventory is characterized as a typical five-vowel system
,suggests that Japanese students would have difficulty producing English vowels that
do not exist in the Persian vowel system ( Vance, 1987). In English, there are five
front

vowels, /i/ /I// / /a/ / / //ae/ and five back vowels /u/ /U/ /
While in Persian there are only three vowels /i:/ /e/ /***/made in the front and one

vowel /u:/ In the back and one vowel in /do not // center. In addition , the English
central vowels /
Exist in the five vowel system of Persian . thus, it is quite probable that vowel
distinctions made by the change of tongue positioning between the five front vowels
and the five back vowels of English may pose problems for Iranian learners of
English, who are accustomed to making only three distinctions on tongue positioning
in the front and back of the mouth.
Furtheremore , the tense /lax distinctions made in English, which contribute to
creating the wider variety of vowels of English, seem to be one of the most
problematic areas in pronunciation for Iranian students. For example, Iranian learners
often produce the tense/lax vowel pairs of English almost identically as if they were
the same vowels; for example, words such as " sleep", "taste" and " stewed" may be
pronounced in the same way as such words as "slip" , "test" and "stood" are
pronounced respectively. thus, it is quite conceivable that such failure to distinguish
between tense and lax vowel pairs of English can cause misunderstandings or
miscommunications between Iranian students and native English speakers.
Furthermore, the Persian lack of a mid /

/and a low front vowel/ ***/ as present in central vowel/

English and the different tongue positioning of the vowel /a/


between the two languages(i.e.,/a/ is a low back vowel in English,while it is a low
central vowel in Persian ) can bring about a great confusion to Iranian students in
producing such words as " hut ", " hat" , and "hot" , or " putt" , " pat", and " pot" . that
is , Iranian students might end up producing these three vowel sounds in such a
similar or interchangeable manner that a native English speaker cannot tell which
words they are trying to say .

Consonants
As I painted out earlier , the Persian consonantal inventory dose not contain such a
wide variety of consonants as its English counterpart , although allophonic
realizations of some Persian consonants can cover some of the consonants present in
English but not in the Percian consonantal system( Riney & Anderson Hiseh ,

1993;Ladefoged ,1982) . such voiceless / /voiced pairs of fricatives and affricates in


English as / ***//
And /v/ /w/ usually do not occur as distinct phonemes in Persian, but when /v/and
/w/ appear before the vowels /I/ and /u/ , they are pronounced /v/and /w/
allophonically.
It should be noted , however, that because these allophonic realizations are
constrained by the environments in which they occur, the specific settings for such
Persian allophonic realizations might not always be appropriate for English Phonemic
realizations(Kenworthy, 1987). For example, Persian students may pronouns such
pair of words as " they " and" thin" or " wear" and" was" like(***) and (***) or
"veer" and "vak" respectively. Thus, these problems are considered to be a clear
illustration that Iranian students might be transferring the sound patterns of Persian in
to English and producing allophonic consonants that are appropriate in Persian but
not in English .
Another problem that comes from the lack of particular consonants in a Persian but
which exist in English is the pronunciation of labiovelar approximant /w/. while
Persian has a similar counterpart of /v/ sound , it is a labiodental as in English .
because of the particular lack of /w/ sound, Iranin learners often substitute the voiced
labiodental fricatives/ v/ for/w/ . this strategy of substitution might cause some
miscommunication between Iranian students and native speakers of English; for
instance, such words as " was" and wea" might be wrongly perceived as "vase" and
""veer" .
As a similar example of substituting a particular consonant with other similar

consonants available, Iranian students often / / employ such substitution strategy in


producing the English

And (***) sounds . Although Persian has not a interdental / / fricative sound similar
to both English

And (***), the Interdental/fricative doesnot exactly correspond to either of the


English interdentalfricative and they are often pronounced as a kind of in- between
sound of the English / t/ and /d/ and /s/ and /z/. Thus, Iranian students often substitute
/t /

/at another. Because of this For (***) at one time and /s/ for /

/ , words such as "they" Interchangeable use of both(***) and/


And " thin" may sound like "day" and "sin" to English native

Speakers . still another problem of pronunciation that needs to be addressed for


Iranian students is that they often has difficulty producing English words with
consonant clusters and closed syllables. Such difficulty is caused by the fact that
Persian doesnot allow a word to end with three consonants nor permit two initial
consonants clusters (e.g. , CCVCC types of syllables as found in English words )
( Avery and Ehrlich 1992) . Thus, aword with initial consonant clusters and a closed
syllable such as " street" may be pronounced as "estrees" or /estri:t/ , by inserting a
vowel before consonants, so that the word can conform to the Persian syllable pattern
(CVC). Furthermore , this vowel insertion strategy usedby Iranian students seem to be
a natural reaction to the difficulties pronouncing consonant clusters, but at the same
time quite difficult to amend by themselves, because usually students are not aware
consciously of the fact that they are inserting a vowel before consonants in
pronouncing consonant clusters. Although they might recognized the problem when
pointed out by others at the time, there is no telling whether the problem will be
corrected in the future.

Stress,Rhythm, and Intonation


Since Persian is a syllable timed language , Persian learners of English may have
difficulty producing English words and sentences in the way that corresponds to the
characteristic rhythm of English. The reason behind this difficulty seems to be two
fold : 1) there is no reduced or short vowel equivalent to English shwa 2) In a
syllable-timed language like Persian , each syllable is assigned an equal amount of
weight , regardless of whether the syllable is stressed or unstressed . As aresult,
Iranian speakers' pronunciation of English words and sentences may sound strange to
the native speakers' ears , and this particular type of rhythm can adversely affect the
comprehen sibility of their English to the native speakers. In addition , the difference

in the way of stress markings between Persian and English, also contributes to the
difficulty fore Iranian Students in both producing and receiving the characteristic
stressed patterns and the overall rhythm of English. Finally, the issue of difficulty that
Iranian students might face in realizing the characteristic intonation patterns of
English should also be addressed . although both Persian and English utilize the basic
intonation patterns such as rising intonation for yes- no questions or final risingfalling for statements in conveying the meaning of sentences and also the intend of
the speaker , the difference between the two rests not in the way of creating intonation
patterns but rather in the degree of pitch change or pitch ranges employed differently
in creating appropriate intonation contours in each language ( Avery &
Ehrlich ,1992). AS a result , Iranian students would often fail to display the wider
pitch range utilized in creating English Intonation patterns, relying heavily on their
use of the narrower pitch range of Persian intonation patterns (Maccarthy ,1978)
For example, even if a Iranian student intends to say a sentence as a statement, a
native English speaker might misinterpret the statement as a question or assume that
the speaker has not finish speaking yet. This example of misinterpretation as to the
intent of the speakers utterances clearly illustrates one of the most common problems
that Iranian learners of English may encounter in communication. When a speaker
fails to lower the pitch level far enough at the end of a sentence, the utterance might
be perceived as a continuation of the speech, in spite of the speaker's initial intention
to finish the line.
Furthermore, it should be noted that since pitch changes can convey not only the
meaning of sentences but also the speaker's attitude toward a topic of conversation,
narrower use of pitch ranges by Iranian students in their speech might be( mis)
interpreted as a sign of boredom or lack of interest by the native
English speakers (Avery & Ehrilch ,1992).

Conclusion
As we have seen in the preceding section ,many of the potential pronunciation
difficulties for Iranian / EFL learners are found to be a clear reflection of the L1
phonological transfer. Through detailed examination of Persian and English sound
systems, some of the specific problem areas have been identified, especially in
reference to some of the characteristic phonological differences between the two
languages.
Pronunciation difficulties for Iranian learners of English may arise;

1) When they encounter sounds in English that are not part of / /, (***) , /w/, the
sound inventory of Persian such as ; /
2) when the rules of combining sounds into words in Persian are different from those
in English (i.e.; different syllable types) .
3)When the characteristic patterns of stress and intonation in English , which
determine the overall rhythm or melody of the language, are different from those in
Persian (I.e., pitch accent vs. stress accent and syllable- timed vs., stress-timed).
It should be noted, however, that identifying specific pronunciation difficulties for
Iranian learners of English do not necessarily lead to the dramatic improvement of
their pronunciation, but rather that such knowledge can only constitute a prerequisite
for teachers in creating actual teaching activities . In other words , whether the
pronunciation teaching can become effective or not largely depends on how teachers
can utilize such knowledge in designing the teaching materials or activities that help
students become aware of the difference between English and Persian sound systems
and improve their pronunciation by themselves (Kelly , 2000 ; celce-Murcia, Brinton
& Goodwin , 1996).

Although it is almost a clich that the better the Pronunciation, the more effective the
communication becomes, it is equally true that even if L2 learners could attain perfect
pronunciation of sepsrate sound items , that does not guarantee smooth
communication with native speakers nor effective presentation of the idas that they
intend to convey. Communicative aspects of language learning, which involves many
other competence requirements such as grammatical , strategic, sociolinguistic , or
discourse knowledge , should not be neglected for the sake of native like accuracy
of pronunciation (Morley , 1987;Celect-Murcia,1987).

With this regard , the tasks for ESL/EFL teachers inteaching pronunciation should not
be limited to eradicating all traces of a forein accent from the students' speech. But
rather, instead of expecting" precise accuracy" through tedious pronunciation drills or
repetition, more emphasis should be placed on raising communicative value of the
students ' pronunciation so that what they produce would be more comprehensible to
others.

References
Birjandi/P& Salmani nodoushan / M.A.(2005) . Ax Introduction to
phonetics .Tehran: Zabankadeh publications .

Hancock/M.(2003). English pronunciation in use . Cambridge : Cambridge


university press.

Falk/s.j.(1973). Linguistics and Language (second ed.)Michigan : Michigan state


university.

Fromkin /V and Rudman / R . ( 1988) . An Introduction to language . ( 4 th ed .) .


Holt , Rinhart and Winston , Inc .

Ladefoged/ p. (1987) . A course in phonetics . New york: Harcout Brace.


Cele Murcia / M. (1987). Teaching pronunciation as communication. In J. morely
(ED.)/Current perspectives on pronunciation (pp. 1-12) .Washington /DC: TESOL

Ohata /k . ( 2005) Phonotogical Difference between Japanese and English .[Article].


Pensylvanya:
Indiana University of Pensylvania .
Brown/H.D.(1994). Principles of language learning and teaching ( 3rd ed.0.
Englewood cliffs /NJ: Prentice Hall.
O'connor /J.D.(1954).A curse of English pronunciation .London : The British
Broadcasting Corporation in London.

Lyons/J. (1981). Language and Linguistics . Cambridge : Cambridge Univerity Press.

Roach/ P . (2000). English Phonetics and Phonology A practical course (3rd ed.).
Cambridge : Cambridge University Press.

Table "1"
Score of Students with
remedia course
{Experimental group}

Pre-test
VOL

Post-Test

Name -Family

Score

score

Roshanak Siahpoosh

12.75

18

Fatemeh Shah Abadi

18

20

Nahid Bossak

11.25

17

Maryam Behdarvand

14.5

18

Zeinab Jamshdi

9.5

14.25

Ashraf Behdarvand

19.75

20

Khadijeh Molla -Ahmadi

12

15.5

Somayeh Monjezy

18.5

20

Mahnaz Babaee

13

16

10

Maesoomeh Javdaneh

14.5

16.25

11

Elham Eghbali

17.25

20

8.75

13.5

12

Mahtab

Shadmehr

13

Forogh Baba - Hosseini

13.25

15.5

14

Ahzam Mokhtar-zadeh

16.25

18

15

Elaheh Hasanvand

11.5

15

Table "2"
Scores of Students with out
Remedial course
{coutrol group}

pre-Test

Post-Test

VOL

Name-Family

Score

score

Mina Gomari

9.5

Leila Ahmadi

7.75

6.5

Maryam Amiri

10.5

11

Mona Sardar- zadeh

16.5

13.25

Foroozan Mokhtari

12.25

10

Shabnam Mokhtari

4.5

-5-

Roya Hafezee

7.25

-8-

Sahar Emam- gholi zadeh

18.25

16

Asma Gorjian

9.5

7.75

10

Fatemeh Bossak

-8-

11

Nahid Bakhtiari

10

13

12

Zahra zalaki

8.5

-7-

13

Zeinab Lorestani

14

Sommayeh Adineh

8.25

10.5

15

Sakineh Mohammadi

10.25

11

10