Our subject was selected for this case study because he displayed phonetic L1 attrition in all of the other group phonetic analyses he previously underwent, whilst the other nine bilinguals who had moved from Germany to Canada did not do so as consistently. For example, de Leeuw et al. (2011, 2012) found that his realisation of his German /l/ in coda position adhered to the Canadian English norms and became “dark” which is not typical for Standard German. In another phonetic analysis, his realisation of the prenuclear rise in his native German was significantly earlier than is characteristic of German; instead, it fell “within the English monolingual norm” (2011: 9). In an additional study which examined the perception of foreign accent in a large group of German native speakers who had moved to either Anglophone Canada or the Netherlands, he stood out because he was consistently rated to be a non-native speaker of his native German by German monolinguals in Germany (de Leeuw et al., 2010).
The present case study builds on these previous studies by investigating the pronunciation of his German rhotic in words like Reis “rice” and Rat “advice”. We conducted an impressionistic, i.e. perceptual analysis, of potentially foreign accented speech in all of his rhotic realisations. Thereafter, we undertook an acoustic analysis of his rhotic realisations to see whether they were more in line with what one would expect from English native speech, rather than German native speech.
In brief, this study revealed L1 attrition in the rhotic realisations of the subject, evidenced again in both the impressionistic and acoustic analyses. We suggest that the subject may have been particular susceptible to L1 attrition due to his prolonged reduced use of German coupled with extended complete immersion in a monolingual English environment. We propose that he underwent “extreme” L1 attrition in the domain of phonetics because he was “extremely” immersed in the English language – in contrast to the other comparable bilinguals.