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Phonological Interaction in Spanish-English Bilinguals: Effects of Cognate Usage on Voice Onset Time of Voiced Stops

By Sophia Andrea Younes


This study compared Spanish-English bilinguals’ and English monolinguals’ VOT values for voiced stops /b, d, g/ in cognates and non-cognates. The data support cross-linguistic interaction in bilinguals\u27 phonologies, and indicate that cognates can interfere with bilinguals’ phonemic distinctions, realized in their phonetic productions. For voiced stops, English VOT norms generally average 0 to +35 ms, while Spanish VOT norms average -235 to -45 ms. Twenty-six participants (twelve English monolinguals and fourteen early Spanish-English bilinguals) were administered a picture-naming task, balanced for cognate and non-cognate forms. The VOT values of 30 target words per participant and per language were measured. In English, bilinguals’ VOTs exhibited significantly greater lead voicing (M = -31.53 ms) than monolinguals’ (M = 8.86 ms), and, for all participants, /b/ had longer lead voicing (M = -17.44 ms) than /d/ (-10.74 ms) and /g/ (-5.83 ms). Comparing bilinguals’ VOTs for Spanish versus English revealed significant differences by language (English shorter), differences between /b/ and /g/, and between cognates and non-cognates, with shorter lead voicing in cognates (M = -45.49 ms) than in non-cognates (M = -53.26 ms). More detailed results showed that in bilinguals’ Spanish productions with word-initial /d/ and English productions with word-initial /b/, cognates exhibited shorter lead voicing (more English-like) than non-cognates. The conclusion is that the bilinguals’ VOT values exhibited some cross-linguistic influence in relation to cognate usage, in the direction towards their dominant language (English). These results are discussed in terms of the factors that can facilitate bilingual phonological system interaction

Topics: bilingualism, cognates, voice onset time, VOT, phonological interaction, Linguistics
Publisher: FIU Digital Commons
Year: 2018
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