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Rachel Hayes-Harb

RachelI am an Associate Professor of Linguistics and Director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of Utah. My research focuses on a variety of phenomena related to the acquisition of the phonology of a second language (L2) by adult learners, specifically the development of L2 phoneme inventories. My research typically involves experimental investigations of the perception of L2 sounds and the influence of various types of linguistic experience on L2 phonological development.

I currently serve as an Associate Editor at Phonetica, and on the editorial boards of Second Language Research, Applied Psycholingusitics, and Journal of Second Language Pronunciation.

Here is my Google Scholar profile and my CV. Email me at


Recent Research

Adults typically experience difficulty acquiring the sound system (phonology) of a second language (L2), and this difficulty is commonly observed as a foreign accent (e.g., native speakers of Japanese often exhibit difficulty with the English ‘r’ and ‘l’ sounds). I investigate the phenomena of foreign-accented speech and foreign-accented listening in order to better understand the nature and development of L2 phonological knowledge and processing. My research involves experimental investigations of the perception and production of L2 sounds (phonemes) and the influence of various types of linguistic experience on phonological and lexical development. My ongoing scholarly activity can be divided into the following lines of inquiry:

The majority of my scholarship has focused on adults’ ability to establish and to use lexical representations in a second language. The involvement of the lexicon (narrowly defined here as a set of mappings between meanings and phonological forms) is central to my work: Unlike research focused primarily on speech production and perception in their own right, I investigate these phenomena primarily as they function in the service of distinguishing minimally contrastive lexical items. In an effort to better understand the nature of learners’ lexical-phonological structure, I am particularly interested in the sources of information that contribute to the phonological content of lexical representations—that is, the role that various types of input play in L2 acquisition.

For information about ongoing projects in this area, please click here.

Durham, K., R. Hayes-Harb, S. Barrios & C.E. Showalter. 2016. The influence of various visual input types on L2 learners’ memory for the phonological forms of newly-learned words. In J. Levis, H. Le., I. Lucic, E. Simpson, & S. Vo (Eds). Proceedings of the 7th Pronunciation in Second Language Learning and Teaching Conference, Dallas, TX, October 2016. Ames, IA: Iowa State University.

Hayes-Harb, R., & H.-w. Cheng. 2016. The influence of the Pinyin and Zhuyin writing systems on the acquisition of Mandarin word forms by native English speakers. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00785 Stimuli available on IRIS.

Hayes-Harb, R. & J.F. Hacking. 2015. The influence of written stress marks on native English speakers’ acquisition of Russian lexical stress contrasts. Slavic and East European Journal, 59, 1, 91-109.

Showalter, C. & R. Hayes-Harb. 2015. Native English speakers learning Arabic: The influence of novel orthographic information on second language phonological acquisition. Applied Psycholinguistics 36, 1, 23-42. Stimui available on IRIS.

Bassetti, B., P. Escudero & R. Hayes-Harb. 2015. Second language phonology at the interface between acoustic and orthographic input. Introduction to special issue of Applied Psycholinguistics 36, 1, 1-6.

Showalter, C. & R. Hayes-Harb. 2013. Unfamiliar orthographic information and second language word learning: A novel lexicon study. Second Language Research 29, 2, 54 – 69. Stimuli available on IRIS.

Hayes-Harb, R., J. Nicol & J. Barker. 2010. Learning the phonological forms of new words: Effects of orthographic and auditory input. Language and Speech 53, 3, 367-381. Stimuli available on IRIS.

Escudero, P., R. Hayes-Harb, & H. Mitterer. 2008. Novel second-language words and asymmetric lexical access. Journal of Phonetics, 36, 2, 345-360.

Hayes-Harb & K. Masuda. 2008. Development of the ability to lexically encode novel L2 phonemic contrasts. Second Language Research 24, 1, 5-33.

Hayes-Harb, R. 2007. Lexical and statistical evidence in the acquisition of second language phonemes. Second Language Research 23, 1, 1-31. Stimuli available on IRIS.

My most recent scholarship concerning L2 speech perception and production has focused of the implementation of English word-final voicing contrasts by native speakers of German (Smith, Hayes-Harb, Bruss & Harker 2009; Smith & Hayes-Harb 2011); individual differences in L2 speech perception (Smith & Hayes-Harb 2011); intra-speaker variability in L2 production (Smith & Hayes-Harb, under review), and the perception of Arabic emphatic contrasts by native speakers of English (Hayes-Harb & Durham, to appear).

For information about ongoing projects in this area, please click here.

Hayes-Harb, R. & K. Durham. 2016. Native English speakers’ perception of Arabic emphatic consonants and the influence of vowel context. Foreign Language Annals.

Hayes-Harb, R. 2012. Comparative phonetics and phonology. The Encyclopedia of Applied Linguistics, ed. Chapelle, C.A.  Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

Smith, B.L. & R. Hayes-Harb. 2011. Individual differences in the perception of final consonant voicing among native and non-native speakers of English. Journal of Phonetics 39, 1, 115-120.

Smith, B.L., R. Hayes-Harb, M. Bruss & A.A. Harker. 2009. Production and perception of voicing and devoicing in similar German and English word pairs by native speakers of German. Journal of Phonetics 37, 3, 257-275.

Hayes-Harb, R., B.L. Smith, T. Bent & A.R. Bradlow. 2008. The interlanguage speech intelligibility benefit for native speakers of Mandarin: Production and perception of English word-final voicing contrasts. Journal of Phonetics 36, 4, 664-679.

Hayes-Harb, R. 2005. Optimal L2 speech perception: Native speakers of English and Japanese consonant length contrasts. Journal of Language & Linguistics 4, 1, 1-29.

Boersma, P., P. Escudero & R. Hayes. 2003. Learning abstract phonological from auditory phonetic categories: An integrated model of the acquisition of language-specific sound categories. Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. Barcelona, Spain, August.

My recent research on the accentedness and intelligibility of L2 speech includes work that attempts to understand the role that the listener plays in these constructs. In Hayes-Harb & Watzinger-Tharp (2012), we investigated the contributions of  listener factors in intelligibility and accentedness judgments of English-accented German speech by native German listeners. In Hayes-Harb & Hacking (2015), we conducted in-depth interviews of native English listeners concerning what they believe underlies their accentedness ratings of samples of Bosnian-accented English speech samples.

For information about ongoing projects in this area, please click here.

Hayes-Harb, R. & J.F. Hacking. 2015. Beyond rating data: What do listeners believe underlies their accentedness judgments? Journal of Second Language Pronunciation, 1, 1, 43-64.

Hayes-Harb, R. 2014. Acoustic-phonetic parameters in the perception of accent. In A. Moyer & J. Levis, eds. Social Dynamics in Second Language Accent. De Gruyter Mouton. Pp. 31-51.

Hayes-Harb, R. & J. Watzinger-Tharp. 2012. Accent, intelligibility, and the role of the listener: Perceptions of English-accented German by native German speakers. Foreign Language Annals 45, 2, 260–282.

Schierloh, M. & R. Hayes-Harb. 2009. The contributions of talker familiarity and individual talker characteristics to FL listening comprehension: Native English speakers listening to German. Die Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German 41, 2, 171-185.

I have very recently become interested in the phenomenon of lexically-driven perceptual adaptation—that is, listeners’ ability to use knowledge of the lexical item intended by a speaker (more precisely, its phonological form) to infer mappings between surface forms produced by non-native speakers and native phonemes. (For example, a listener may gather from context that a surface form, [sit] is associated with the lexical item /sIt/ ‘sit’, thus inferring a [i] to /I/ mapping for that speaker.) I have hypothesized that one of the reasons that native English-speaking students report experiencing great difficulty understanding the speech of International Teaching Assistants (ITAs) is that ITAs, by virtue of their positions at teachers, produce large numbers of lexical items that have very low frequency and may be new/unfamiliar to students. Lexically-driven lexical adaptation should be unavailable for new/unfamiliar words. In collaboration with Diane Cotsonas, Director of the International Teaching Assistant Program at the University of Utah, along with students Catherine E. Showalter (PhD Linguistics student) Amanda Rabideau (MA Linguistics, 2014) and Savanne Bohnet (BA Linguistics, 2015), I have been working on a study testing this hypothesis. We have exposed native English speakers to samples of non-native speech containing either low-frequency ‘hard’ words or high-frequency ‘easy’ words. At test, we have found that the groups exposed to ‘easy’ versus ‘hard’ word training did not differ in their mean adaptation performance; however, the variance among ‘hard’ word training subjects was significantly higher than that among ‘easy’ word training subjects. This finding suggests that the ‘hard’ word training served to highlight individual differences in adaptation ability.

For information about ongoing projects in this area, please click here.

Over the past several years I have become increasingly interested in the blend of scholarship and community engagement known as Community-Based Research (CBR). CBR is a “collaborative approach to research that equitably involves…community members, organizational representatives, and researchers in all aspects of the research process” (Israel, Schulz, Parker and Becker, 1998: 177). Funded by a CBR grant from the Office of the Vice President for Research at the University of Utah, collaborators at the English Skill Learning Center and I conducted a study of the efficacy of a novel approach to teaching English to pre-literate adult learners (mostly refugees) in the Salt Lake City area.

Blackmer, R. & R. Hayes-Harb. 2016. Identifying effective methods of instruction for adult emergent readers through community-based research. Journal of Research and Practice for Adult Literacy, Secondary, and Basic Education.



Catherine E. Showalter (PhD)

Taylor Anne Barriuso (PhD)

Eve Olson (BA Honors)

Joshua Jackson (2017 MA)

Kelsey Brown (2015 MA)

Amanda Rabideau (2014 MA)

Asmaa Shehata (2013 PhD)

Jenia Ivanova (2011 MA)

Mara Haslam (2011 PhD)

Jennifer Leparmentier (2007 MA)

Zac Rasmussen (2007 Honors BA)

Last Updated: 4/12/17