I'm rephrasing my question after (very helpful) comments to my initial version:
- What are the differences between the [i] produced by French speakers (in French) and English speakers (in English)?
- Does the English [i] ever occur in a context such as C_C i.e: [ʃi:p] where minimal pairs are possible without the lengthening? Is this a redundancy built into the language so [i]~[ɪ] can be discriminated?
Previous title: [ɪ]~[i] production by native French speakers of English - why is [ɪ] the 'default'?
My assumption is that the vowel [ɪ] does not exist in (standard) French even as an allophone. When (mis)pronouncing sheet/shit, beach/bitch, etc, anecdotal tellings of this particular error seems to favour the [ɪ] in terms of occurrence (if someone can point to an actual study that would be appreciated).
Is the French [i] of 'livre' /livʁ/ known to be far shorter in duration than the English [i] in 'leave' /li:v/? When 'leave' is pronounced by a French speaker as /liv/ (note: correct vowel, but not lengthened) is this being perceived by native English speakers as an occurrence of 'live' /lɪv/?