Pronouncing ‘Trump’ and how it reveals your first language

The name Trump is everywhere to be heard. However, a vast variety of pronunciations of the name can be observed by ESL speakers (e.g. /trɑmp/, /trœmp/, /trʊmp/). Through conversation in an SLA setting, accents are recognisable, therefore, certain features can be assigned to a specific first language. There is a growing body of literature that recognises the importance of the difficulty in realising vowel sounds by EFL learners (i.e. Cunningham. 2008.; del Rosario Garita Sánchez, González Lutz & Solís Pérez. 2019.; Hunter & Kebede. 2012.; Leemann. 2008.). The Swiss German phonemic inventory does not feature the STRUT vowel, its speakers, according to Swan (2001), produce a more open back vowel such as /ɑ/ rather than /ʌ/. The present study investigates this vowel in particular, in order to highlight its difficulty for foreign language learners whilst analysing whether intelligibility issues could occur with Swiss German learners of English. To this end, the formant frequencies of both Standard Southern British English (SSBE) and General American English (GAE) females were consulted as reference values, and then compared to female Swiss speakers of English. The current data set encompasses read speech from 45 grammar school students of two different levels at school: first year (23 students), and final year (22 students). All 45 participants had been taught English between three and six years, aged 14 to 20. For this contribution, 26 female speakers were analysed focussing on the word such (i.e. /sʌtʃ/), whilst applying an interval duration formant frequency measurement. Given that all speakers were female, no vowel normalization was conducted. The most striking result to emerge from the data is not only the STRUT vowel formant frequencies deviating substantially between speakers, but also when compared to the benchmark values (the formant frequencies of women in GAE are on average F1 753, F2 1426 (Hillenbrand, Getty, Clark & Wheeler. 1995.) and for SSBE F1 914 and F2 1459 (Deterding. 1997.). Figure 1 illustrates a centralisation of STRUT when compared to the two benchmark values: SSBE (green), and GAE (orange). For some speakers, the realisation of STRUT is more fronted and higher. What stands out in the table are the three highlighted STRUT vowels; The red coloured STRUT vowel (which is furthest away) has an F1 of 423 and an F2 of 1895, whilst the purple coloured marks an F1 of 593 and an F2 of 1967. The closest STRUT realisation to the benchmark (in blue) is F1 780 and F2 1494. Concerning this relatively substantial deviation from the benchmarks, research has shown that “differences in F1 frequencies of greater than 135 Hz and F2 frequencies of 170 Hz [would] result in intelligibility issues” according to Koffi (2012; Brakel Packer & Lorincz. 2013. p. 17). Whether or not that is the case, must be tested in future perception studies. Until July 2021, the male speakers will be included in the dataset, and STRUT vowels of more tokens will be considered – this will enable a more stable result of the situation in German-speaking Switzerland.


Cunningham, Una. 2008. Acoustic Variability in the Production of English vowels by Native and Non-Native Speakers. In E. Waniek-Klimczak (ed.) Issues in Accents of English. pp.1-15. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholar Publishing.
Deterding, Dieter. 1997. The formants of monophthong vowels in Standard Southern British English pronunciation. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 27: 47-55.
Garita Sánchez, María del Rosario.; González Lutz, María Isabel. & Nathalia Solís Pérez. 2019. English vowel sounds: Pronunciation issues and student and faculty perceptions. Revista Actualidades Investigativas en Educación, 19(3):1-32. Doi.10.15517/aie.v19i3.38629
Hillenbrand, James, Getty, Laura, A., Clark, Michael, J. & Kimberlee Wheeler. 1995. Acoustic characteristics of American English vowels. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, no. 97.5, pp. 3099-3111.
Hunter, G & H. Kebede. 2012. Formant frequencies of British English vowels produced by native speakers of Farsi, Société Française d’Acoustique, Acoustics 2012 [conference paper]. Nantes, pp. 3919-3924.
Koffi, Ettien. 2012. Intelligibility assessment and the acoustic vowel space: an instrumental phonetic account of the production of lax vowel vowels by Somali speakers. In J. Levis & K. Levelle (Eds.). Proceedings of the 3rd Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, Sept. 2011. pp. 216-232. Ames, IA: Iowa State University.
Leemann, Adrian. 2008. Vowel Quality of Swiss EFL Speakers. In Accents in English as a non-native language. pp. 16-32.
Packer, Claire Brakel and Lorincz, Kristen. 2013. "Acoustic Vowel Space Analysis of an English Language Learner," Linguistic Portfolios: Vol. 2 , Article 3. Available at:
Swan, Michael. 2001. German speakers. In Swan, M. & Smith, B. Learner English. pp. 37-51. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Weinberger, S. “Native Phonetic Inventory: Swiss German”, Speech Accent Archive [web page]., 7.2.2017.

See also: Poster