LINGUIST List 14.2268

Thu Aug 28 2003

Diss: Psycholing/Phonetic/Lang Acq: Steinlen

Editor for this issue: Naomi Fox <>


  1. steinlen, A cross-linguistic comparison

Message 1: A cross-linguistic comparison

Date: Thu, 28 Aug 2003 06:19:08 +0000
From: steinlen <>
Subject: A cross-linguistic comparison

Institution: University of Aarhus, Denmark
Program: Department of English
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Anja K. Steinlen 

Dissertation Title: A cross-linguistic comparison of the effects of
consonantal contexts on vowels produced by native and non-native

Linguistic Field: 	Psycholinguistics
			Language Acquisition

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

Dissertation Director 1: Ocke Schwen Bohn
Dissertation Director 2: James E. Flege 
Dissertation Director 3: Thorsten Piske
Dissertation Director 4: Dawn Behne

Dissertation Abstract: 

This dissertation examines the effect of consonantal context on the
production of native vowels (in Southern British English, Danish, and
North German) and of non-native vowels (Southern British English
vowels as produced by native speakers of Danish and of North German).

The data for this study were elicited from 10 male talkers each in the
three native and two non-native speaker groups. Vowels were recorded
in /bVt/, /bVp/, /dVt/, and /gVk/ contexts in comparable sentence
frames and in a /hVt/ context produced in citation form. The focus of
this study was on the measurements of F1 and F2 at temporal vowel
midpoint (50% of vowel duration) and throughout the vocalic nucleus
(i.e., at 25% and 75% of vowel duration), and on absolute and relative
vowel durations.

The results of this study suggest that the extent to which the
production of vowels is influenced by adjacent consonants is
language-specific: The spectral properties of the English and German
vowels (but not of Danish vowels) were considerably affected by
consonantal context. This study also showed that expectations about
language-specific patterns of coarticulation were transferred from the
native to the non-native language: In contrast to English, the
temporal but not the spectral values of Danish-accented English vowels
were strongly affected by consonantal context. The results, however,
also indicated that some consonantal context effects are learnable, as
in the case of Danish-accented English back vowels in the alveolar
context. This study also shows that comparisons of phonetic symbols
can be misleading in cross-language comparisons of vowels. Acoustic
analyses revealed a) that identically transcribed vowels of two
languages may differ greatly in their spectral properties (e.g.,
English /u:/ and Danish /u:/) and b) that differently transcribed
vowels may have the same acoustic vowel quality (e.g., the English
vowel in 'hut' and the German vowel in 'hat'). Languages apparently
also differ as to how they exploit vowel-inherent spectral change in
their vowel inventory (e.g. English /u:/ vs. Danish /u:/), which may
also contribute to the degree of foreign accent in non-native
speakers' vowel production (e.g., the lack of diphthongisation in
Danish-accented English /u:/).

In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that languages differ
in the extent to which flanking consonants affect the acoustic
properties of vowels and that L2 learners typically transfer the
language-specific coarticulatory patterns of vowel production in their
native language to a non-native language.
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