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Summary Details

Query:   L2 interdental substitutions
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Sociolinguistics
Language Acquisition


T he thing I asked about concerned the fact that L2 Englishes with similar
L1 phoneme inventories that include [f] [s] and [t] etc. 'select' different
realisations of TH and DH (e.g. Afrikaans 'fing', German 'sing' and Xhosa

I found out the following (references at the end):

An extensive summary and discussions of interdental substitution appeared on
the Linguist List in 1996 (Vol-7-1108; Vol-7-859; Vol-7-1073; Vol-7-1164).

1. Castilian Spanish speakers, which have /th/ but no predorsal /s/, and
[dh] is as an allophone of /d/ (there are no voiced fricatives), use /th/
for Eng. /th/ and /d<>dh/ according to the context, for Eng. /dh/.
Non-Castilian Spanish speakers, which lack /th/ but have a predorsal /s/,
use /s/ for /th/, and also /d<>dh/ for the voiced counterpart. All
Spanish dialects also have /f/.
2. Curiously, European French systematically has /s/ and /z/ for the English
dental fricatives ("Mr. Smis") while Canadian French just as systematically
has /t/ and /d/ ("Mr. Smit"), yet the two dialects are no different from
each other than are British English and North American English. There
appears to be no firmly established explanation for this.where it was. It
has been proposed that this difference was due to a slight difference in the
articulation of (French) dentals in Canada and Europe. An alternative
proposal is that the difference may be related to the fact that Canadian
French speakers were in contact with spoken English far more than European
French speakers were, and that /t/, /d/ may be a more 'natural'
realizations of the English interdental fricatives than /s/ and /z/. Note
that elsewhere in
germanic, when proto-germanic interdental fricatives were lost they
typically merged with the dental stops, never the sibilants.
3. In most varieties of Indian English both the fricatives are replaced by
corresponding dental stops.
4. Often there is positional variation in the choice of substite: For
example James (1986) finds that Dutch speakers of L2 English substitute
TH,DH with /t,d/ word-initially, but with /s,z/ word-finally.
5. Child language: Different children produce different substitutes, i.e.
either [f,v], [s,z] or [t,d]. The selection may depend upon stage of
6. In both Qu\233bec and France French, [f,v] have been heard by one of the
4. Perceptually, [f,v] is frequently confused with TH,DH, even for native
English speakers (Hancin-Bhatt 1994).
5. Perception-production asymmetry has been found (Hancin-Bhatt 1994;
Nemser 1971).
6. Often one finds that L2 speakers approximate the target, e.g. producing
an affricate [tTH].
7. Weinberger (1990) observed that the segmental inventories of Japanese and
Russian both have /s/ and /t/, but lack the voiceless dental fricative
(English /th/in). Japanese learners of English mispronounce the English
v-less fricative as /s/, Russians as /t/. Current theory does not appear to
provide no explanation for the distinct L1 substitutions by Japanese and
Russian learners.


Brannen, Kathleen (1999) "Perception of interdental fricatives by learners
of L2 English: Experimental design and method." Handout from
Psycholinguistic Shorts Conference, University of Ottawa.

Hancin-Bhatt, Barbara Jean (1994) Phonological Transfer in Second Language
Perception and Production, PhD Thesis. University of Illinois at

James, Allan (1986) Suprasegmental Phonology and Segmental Form. Niemeyer:

Nemser, William (1971) An Experimental Study of Phonological Interference in
the English of Hungarians. Indiana University Press: Bloomington.

Weinberger, S. 1990. Minimal segments in second language phonology, In J.
Leather & A. James (eds.), New Sounds 90, Proceedings of the 1990 Amsterdam
Symposium on the Acquisition of Second-Language Speech, Amersterdam:
University of Amsterdam.


Swan & Smith's LEARNER ENGLISH or Avery & Ehrlich's TEACHING AMERICAN
ENGLISH PRONUNCIATION which list the most common phonological and
grammatical substitutions speakers of various languages tend to make

Thanks to:

Stephane Goyette
Joaquim Brand\227o de Carvalho
Marc Picard
Hany Babu
Anthony M. Lewis
Kathleen Brannen (presently doing a PhD on the topic)

Apologies to those who may have sent to my second address - this has
basically collapsed it seems.

LL Issue: 10.662
Date Posted: 05-May-1999
Original Query: Read original query


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