Intelligibility of English Vowels Produced by Nigerian and Malaysian Speakers

Document Type : Research Article


1 Department of English and Literary Studies, Bauchi State University Gadau, Gadau, Nigeria

2 Department of English, Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia



The widespread use of the English language raises concerns about maintaining the mutual intelligibility across different nonnative English varieties. Some have viewed nonnative English varieties as distorted forms of English that cannot stand on their own that would cause the language to disintegrate into mutually unintelligible varieties. This study is an attempt to ascertain if there is mutual intelligibility between Nigerian and Malaysian English speakers, as there is little exploration of the intelligibility of African English varieties to Malaysians and vice versa. Forty Nigerians and 80 Malaysian undergraduate ESL students took part in a vowel discrimination task. The Nigerians listened to the words recorded by Malaysian speakers while the Malaysians listened to the words recorded by Nigerian speakers. Seven pairs of vowels were chosen as target vowel contrasts tested.  Results showed that the Nigerians and Malaysians performed well in the discrimination task with performance above the guessing threshold for most of the selected pairs of vowel contrasts. Findings suggest that mutual intelligibility exists between the 2 recognized nonnative English varieties.