Vowel reduction in word-final position by early and late Spanish-English bilinguals.
ABSTRACT: Vowel reduction is a prominent feature of American English, as well as other stress-timed languages. As a phonological process, vowel reduction neutralizes multiple vowel quality contrasts in unstressed syllables. For bilinguals whose native language is not characterized by large spectral and durational differences between tonic and atonic vowels, systematically reducing unstressed vowels to the central vowel space can be problematic. Failure to maintain this pattern of stressed-unstressed syllables in American English is one key element that contributes to a "foreign accent" in second language speakers. Reduced vowels, or "schwas," have also been identified as particularly vulnerable to the co-articulatory effects of adjacent consonants. The current study examined the effects of adjacent sounds on the spectral and temporal qualities of schwa in word-final position. Three groups of English-speaking adults were tested: Miami-based monolingual English speakers, early Spanish-English bilinguals, and late Spanish-English bilinguals. Subjects performed a reading task to examine their schwa productions in fluent speech when schwas were preceded by consonants from various points of articulation. Results indicated that monolingual English and late Spanish-English bilingual groups produced targeted vowel qualities for schwa, whereas early Spanish-English bilinguals lacked homogeneity in their vowel productions. This extends prior claims that schwa is targetless for F2 position for native speakers to highly-proficient bilingual speakers. Though spectral qualities lacked homogeneity for early Spanish-English bilinguals, early bilinguals produced schwas with near native-like vowel duration. In contrast, late bilinguals produced schwas with significantly longer durations than English monolinguals or early Spanish-English bilinguals. Our results suggest that the temporal properties of a language are better integrated into second language phonologies than spectral qualities. Finally, we examined the role of nonstructural variables (e.g. linguistic history measures) in predicting native-like vowel duration. These factors included: Age of L2 learning, amount of L1 use, and self-reported bilingual dominance. Our results suggested that different sociolinguistic factors predicted native-like reduced vowel duration than predicted native-like vowel qualities across multiple phonetic environments.
Project description:Increasing numbers of Hispanic immigrants are entering the US and learning American-English (AE) as a second language (L2). Previous studies investigating the relationship between AE and Spanish vowels have revealed an advantage for early L2 learners for their accuracy of L2 vowel perception. Replicating and extending such previous research, this study examined the patterns with which early and late Spanish-English bilingual adults assimilated naturally-produced AE vowels to their native vowel inventory and the accuracy with which they discriminated the vowels. Twelve early Spanish-English bilingual, 12 late Spanish-English bilingual, and 10 monolingual listeners performed perceptual-assimilation and categorical-discrimination tasks involving AE /i,?,?,?,æ,?,o/. Early bilinguals demonstrated similar assimilation patterns to late bilinguals. Late bilinguals' discrimination was less accurate than early bilinguals' and AE monolinguals'. Certain contrasts, such as /æ-?/, /?-?/, and /?-æ/, were particularly difficult to discriminate for both bilingual groups. Consistent with previous research, findings suggest that early L2 learning heightens Spanish-English bilinguals' ability to perceive cross-language phonetic differences. However, even early bilinguals' native-vowel system continues to influence their L2 perception.
Project description:Research on American-English (AE) vowel perception by Spanish-English bilinguals has focused on the vowels /i/-/?/ (e.g., in sheep/ship). Other AE vowel contrasts may present perceptual challenges for this population, especially those requiring both spectral and durational discrimination. We used Event-Related Potentials (ERPs), MMN (Mismatch Negativity) and P300, to index discrimination of AE vowels /?/-/?/ by sequential adult Spanish-English bilingual listeners compared to AE monolinguals. Listening tasks were non-attended and attended, and vowels were presented with natural and neutralized durations. Regardless of vowel duration, bilingual listeners showed no MMN to unattended sounds, and P300 responses were elicited to /?/ but not /?/ in the attended condition. Monolingual listeners showed pre-attentive discrimination (MMN) for /?/ only; while both vowels elicited P300 responses when attended. Findings suggest that Spanish-English bilinguals recruit attentional and cognitive resources enabling native-like use of both spectral and durational cues to discriminate between AE vowels /?/ and /?/.
Project description:During spoken language comprehension, auditory input activates a bilingual's two languages in parallel based on phonological representations that are shared across languages. However, it is unclear whether bilinguals access phonotactic constraints from the non-target language during target language processing. For example, in Spanish, words with s+ consonant onsets cannot exist, and phonotactic constraints call for epenthesis (addition of a vowel, e.g., stable/estable). Native Spanish speakers may produce English words such as estudy ("study") with epenthesis, suggesting that these bilinguals apply Spanish phonotactic constraints when speaking English. The present study is the first to examine whether bilinguals access Spanish phonotactic constraints during English comprehension. In an English cross-modal priming lexical decision task, Spanish-English bilinguals and English monolinguals heard English cognate and non-cognate primes containing s+ consonant onsets or controls without s+ onsets, followed by a lexical decision on visual targets with the /e/ phonotactic constraint or controls without /e/. Results revealed that bilinguals were faster to respond to /es/ non-word targets preceded by s+ cognate primes and /es/ and /e/ non-word targets preceded by s+ non-cognate primes, confirming that English primes containing s+ onsets activated Spanish phonotactic constraints. These findings are discussed within current accounts of parallel activation of two languages during bilingual spoken language comprehension, which may be expanded to include activation of phonotactic constraints from the irrelevant language.
Project description:The purpose of the present study was to examine the utility of a novel morpheme learning task for indexing typical language abilities in children characterized by diverse language backgrounds.Three groups of 5- to 6-year-old children were tested: monolingual speakers of English, native speakers of Spanish who also spoke English (Spanish-L1 bilinguals), and native speakers of English who also spoke Spanish (English-L1 bilinguals). All children were taught a new derivational morpheme /ku/ marking part-whole distinction in conjunction with English nouns. Retention was measured via a receptive task, and sensitivity and reaction time (RT) data were collected.All three groups of children learned the novel morpheme successfully and were able to generalize its use to untaught nouns. Furthermore, language characteristics (degree of exposure and levels of performance on standardized measures) did not contribute to bilingual children's learning outcomes.Together, the findings indicate that this particular version of the novel morpheme learning task may be resistant to influences associated with language background and suggest potential usefulness of the task to clinical practice.
Project description:Whistled speech in a non-tonal language consists of the natural emulation of vocalic and consonantal qualities in a simple modulated whistled signal. This special speech register represents a natural telecommunication system that enables high levels of sentence intelligibility by trained speakers and is not directly intelligible to naïve listeners. Yet, it is easily learned by speakers of the language that is being whistled, as attested by the current efforts of the revitalization of whistled Spanish in the Canary Islands. To better understand the relation between whistled and spoken speech perception, we look herein at how Spanish, French, and Standard Chinese native speakers, knowing nothing about whistled speech, categorized four Spanish whistled vowels. The results show that the listeners categorized differently depending on their native language. The Standard Chinese speakers demonstrated the worst performance on this task but were still able to associate a tonal whistle to vowel categories. Spanish speakers were the most accurate, and both Spanish and French participants were able to categorize the four vowels, although not as accurately as an expert whistler. These results attest that whistled speech can be used as a natural laboratory to test the perceptual processes of language.
Project description:The current study examined the relationship between nonverbal working memory and morphosyntactic processing in monolingual native speakers of English and bilingual speakers of English and Spanish. We tested 42 monolingual children and 42 bilingual children between the ages of 8 and 10years matched on age and nonverbal IQ. Children were administered an auditory Grammaticality Judgment task in English to measure morphosyntactic processing and a visual N-Back task and Corsi Blocks task to measure nonverbal working memory capacity. Analyses revealed that monolinguals were more sensitive to English morphosyntactic information than bilinguals, but the groups did not differ in reaction times or response bias. Furthermore, higher nonverbal working memory capacity was associated with greater sensitivity to morphosyntactic violations in bilinguals but not in monolinguals. The findings suggest that nonverbal working memory skills link more tightly to syntactic processing in populations with lower levels of language knowledge.
Project description:In two self-paced reading experiments we asked whether late, highly proficient, English-Spanish bilinguals are able to process language-specific morpho-syntactic information in their second language (L2). The processing of Spanish clitic pronouns' word order was tested in two sentential constructions. Experiment 1 showed that English-Spanish bilinguals performed similarly to Spanish-English bilinguals and revealed sensitivity to word order violations for a grammatical structure unique to the L2. Experiment 2 replicated the pattern observed for native speakers in Experiment 1 with a group of monolingual Spanish speakers, demonstrating the stability of processing clitic pronouns in the native language. Taken together, the results show that late bilinguals can process aspects of grammar that are encoded in L2-specific linguistic constructions even when the structure is relatively subtle and not affected for native speakers by the presence of a second language.
Project description:The purpose of this study was to determine whether the degree of dominance of Mandarin-English bilinguals' languages affects phonetic processing of tone content in their native language, Mandarin.We tested 72 Mandarin-English bilingual college students with a range of language-dominance profiles in the 2 languages and ages of acquisition of English. Participants viewed 2 photographs at a time while hearing a familiar Mandarin word referring to 1 photograph. The names of the 2 photographs diverged in tone, vowels, or both. Word recognition was evaluated using clicking accuracy, reaction times, and an online recognition measure (gaze) and was compared in the 3 conditions.Relative proficiency in English was correlated with reduced word recognition success in tone-disambiguated trials, but not in vowel-disambiguated trials, across all 3 dependent measures. This selective attrition for tone content emerged even though all bilinguals had learned Mandarin from birth. Lengthy experience with English thus weakened tone use.This finding has implications for the question of the extent to which bilinguals' 2 phonetic systems interact. It suggests that bilinguals may not process pitch information language-specifically and that processing strategies from the dominant language may affect phonetic processing in the nondominant language-even when the latter was learned natively.
Project description:Cross-generational and cross-dialectal variation in vowels among speakers of American English was examined in terms of vowel identification by listeners and vowel classification using pattern recognition. Listeners from Western North Carolina and Southeastern Wisconsin identified 12 vowel categories produced by 120 speakers stratified by age (old adults, young adults, and children), gender, and dialect. The vowels /ɝ, o, ʊ, u/ were well identified by both groups of listeners. The majority of confusions were for the front /i, ɪ, e, ɛ, æ/, the low back /ɑ, ɔ/ and the monophthongal North Carolina /aɪ/. For selected vowels, generational differences in acoustic vowel characteristics were perceptually salient, suggesting listeners' responsiveness to sound change. Female exemplars and native-dialect variants produced higher identification rates. Linear discriminant analyses which examined dialect and generational classification accuracy showed that sampling the formant pattern at vowel midpoint only is insufficient to separate the vowels. Two sample points near onset and offset provided enough information for successful classification. The models trained on one dialect classified the vowels from the other dialect with much lower accuracy. The results strongly support the importance of dynamic information in accurate classification of cross-generational and cross-dialectal variations.
Project description:Recent research has revealed that the way phonology is constructed during word production differs across languages. Dutch and English native speakers are suggested to incrementally insert phonemes into a metrical frame, whereas Mandarin Chinese speakers use syllables and Japanese speakers use a unit called the mora (often a CV cluster such as "ka" or "ki"). The present study is concerned with the question how bilinguals construct phonology in their L2 when the phonological unit size differs from the unit in their L1. Japanese-English bilinguals of varying proficiency read aloud English words preceded by masked primes that overlapped in just the onset (e.g., bark-BENCH) or the onset plus vowel corresponding to the mora-sized unit (e.g., bell-BENCH). Low-proficient Japanese-English bilinguals showed CV priming but did not show onset priming, indicating that they use their L1 phonological unit when reading L2 English words. In contrast, high-proficient Japanese-English bilinguals showed significant onset priming. The size of the onset priming effect was correlated with the length of time spent in English-speaking countries, which suggests that extensive exposure to L2 phonology may play a key role in the emergence of a language-specific phonological unit in L2 word production.