LINGUIST List 14.1650

Wed Jun 11 2003

Diss: Phonetics/Lang Acquisition: Whitworth

Editor for this issue: Naomi Fox <>


  1. nwhitworth, Bilingual Acquisition of Speech Timing

Message 1: Bilingual Acquisition of Speech Timing

Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2003 05:25:21 +0000
From: nwhitworth <>
Subject: Bilingual Acquisition of Speech Timing

Institution: University of Leeds
Program: Department of Linguistics & Phonetics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2003

Author: Nicole Whitworth 

Dissertation Title: Bilingual Acquisition of Speech Timing: Aspects of
rhythm Production by German-English Families

Linguistic Field: 	Phonetics
			Language Acquisition 

Subject Language:	German, Standard (code: GER)
			English (code: ENG)

Dissertation Director 1: Barry Heselwood
Dissertation Director 2: Paul Foulkes

Dissertation Abstract: 

This study explores the acquisition of speech timing by consecutive
and simultaneous German-English bilinguals. The aim was to contribute
to answers to the following questions: (1) What are the differences
between the acquisitional processes employed in second language
acquisition and bilingual first language acquisition? (2) In how far
do both types of bilinguals acquire different finegrained phonetic
patterns in two closely related languages? (3) At what age do these
patterns emerge in the speech of the simultaneous bilinguals, if at
all? The ultimate aim was to integrate the findings of this study into
current models of language production.

The bilinguals have been recruited from three families resident in the
West Yorkshire area of Great Britain. The adult males are all native
speakers of English and the adult females are native speakers of
German. They have acquired German or English as a second language
after puberty in both taught and immersion environments. The children
ranging in age from 5;0 to 13;2 have been exposed to German and
English from birth. The variables investigated in this study are
speech rhythm, vowel duration, and the realisation of prevocalic
between-word junctures. Speech rhythm has been measured in terms of
the variability of successive vocalic and intervocalic interval length
using the Pairwise Variability Index (PVI). With regard to vowels the
durational differences between LAX and TENSE vowels and differences in
vowel duration conditioned by the VOICING of the following
obstruent. The realisation of prevocalic word boundaries was analysed
in terms of the relative occurrence of laryngeal and supralaryngeal

The results show that both consecutive and simultaneous bilinguals are
aware of fine-grained phonetic detail and attempt to reproduce it in
their speech. The acquisitional processes influencing BL1 and L2
productions are largely the same. Both are affected in particular by
the relative markedness of the detail to be acquired. In both speaker
groups an already existing similar phonetic structure may be used to
substitute the target structure if it has not yet been acquired or an
immature structure may be used. The data investigated provides further
evidence that the period between 5 and 13 years after birth is used to
fine-tune motor skills required for speech production.
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