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A Case of Extreme Phonetic Attrition in the German Rhotic

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Abstract

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.
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... This was probably a result of the influence of rhotic variety of English spoken in Belfast, to which they were exposed, on their German. De Leeuw, Tusha, Zhao, et al. (2018) investigated the production of the rhotic consonant in the onset position by ten late German-English bilinguals through an 'impressionistic' analysis. In this impressionistic analysis, two native English speakers with German as an L2 judged the production of the words containing the rhotic consonants in the onset position produced by the ten bilinguals in order to examine whether one of these bilinguals differed from the others. ...
... Finally, studies on phonetic CLI usually focus on a group of expatriates (e.g., De who thus may have the possibility to speak one with another, or on a group of L2 learner (e.g., Chang, 2010) who follow all the same L2 classes, or on one individual speaker showing attrition (e.g., De Leeuw, Tusha, Zhao, et al., 2018;Mayr et al., 2012;Sancier & Fowler, 1997). The thesis concerns CF who, in the time of data collection, could not be described as members of a community of 'expats'. ...
... These values were chosen with respect to the possible formant values of Czech and French rhotic consonant listed in subsection 6.4.1. When Leeuw, Tusha, Zhao, et al., 2018;Ulbrich & Ordin, 2014). Nevertheless, Czech /r/ usually contains a vocalic component. ...
Thesis
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An increasing number of studies has already investigated phonetic first language attrition and cross-linguistic influence in the L1 speech of late bilinguals. Nevertheless, none of these studies has yet to examine phonetic first language attrition and cross-linguistic influence in the L1 speech of late Czech-French bilinguals. This thesis aims to fill this gap. The main hypothesis predicting that phonetic cross-linguistic influence will occur in L1 speech of late Czech-French bilinguals was tested in two studies by comparing the L1 speech production in a reading aloud task and semi-spontaneous speech of late Czech-French bilinguals with that of Czech monolinguals. The first study investigated if the L1 speech of 14 late Czech-French bilinguals may be perceived as less typically Czech sounding compared to that of 11 Czech monolinguals by Czech monolingual listeners. The second study compared the acoustic properties of 17 late Czech-French bilinguals’ vowels, /r/, /ɦ/, /x/ with those of 17 Czech monoling uals. The properties of non-conclusive intonation patterns and the use of final schwa was also compared. The tested hypothesis was predominantly confirmed . The results of the perception experiment showed that the bilinguals’ semi-spontaneous speech was perceived as significantly less typically Czech sounding compared to that of the monolinguals by the Czech monolinguals listeners. The results of the acoustic analyses suggest that phonetic cross-linguistic influence occurred in several of the bilinguals’ vowels, their /r/, /ɦ/, /x/, non-conclusive intonation patterns and use of final schwa. Interestingly, a certain number of our results suggests that dissimilation and assimilation effects may coexist in the same L1 phoneme of a late bilingual.
... If inter-speaker differences are addressed, a large degree of variation in the strength of cross-language effects is often reported. For example, whereas most speakers of their study showed (L1) assimilation effects, Evans & Iverson (2007) observed that three speakers did not show a change in their L1 vowel production, and one speaker showed a dissimilation process instead of an assimilation process (recall also the individual In a study about one individual speaker whose L1 speech productions were found to be especially atypical in previous studies, insofar as this speaker displayed extreme L1 attrition, de Leeuw et al. (2018) aimed at describing these difference not only by means of quantitative data, but also interpreted the difference to other bilinguals with the help of qualitative analyses. It was shown that this particular speaker had an especially reduced use of L1 German over a long period of time, while at the same time being completely immersed in a monolingual English speaking environment. ...
... Specifically, these additional analyses might help to more accurately describe the possible degree of assimilation or dissimilation effects at the individual level, which otherwise, in purely quantitative analyses, might be levelled out to some extent. Especially in the field of research on L1 attrition, some authors argue for a combination of quantitative and qualitative analyses (e.g., Herdina and Jessner 2013, Cherciov 2013, Ben-Rafael & M. Schmid 2007, de Leeuw et al. 2018. The present study therefore combines quantitative analyses of group effects with qualitative analyses of individual differences, in order to gain insight on the extent of individual variation and the reasons behind this variation in phonetic cross-language patterns. ...
Thesis
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According to the Speech Learning Model the phonetic-phonological systems of bilingual speakers are subjected to bidirectional cross-language mappings. Similar sounds in first language (L1) and second language (L2) approach each other, resulting in one composite L1-L2 category. Previous studies mostly investigated unidirectional influences, and rarely considered the relation to perceived accentedness or individual differences. Moreover, these studies involved English, Dutch, some Romance, or Asiatic languages, with a focus on plosive consonants or vowels. The present study investigated bidirectional influences in L1 and L2 lateral productions by 14 L1-Bosnian-L2-German speakers who migrated as adults to Vienna during the Bosnian war. Ten monolingual L1-Bosnian speakers and 12 monolingual L1-German speakers served as control groups. Whilst Bosnian features a palatal and a velarized lateral phoneme, German features only one alveolar lateral phoneme, which is more similar to the velarized than to the palatal L1-lateral. The present study was designed to approach bidirectional influences from a broad perspective: both group effects and individual differences in production were analyzed acoustically (by measuring F2-F1 in bark) and by means of accent rating studies. Qualitative interviews were conducted to support the interpretation of individual differences. Results showed a dissimilation of the palatal lateral, without conspicuous individual differences. Concerning the similar L1 and L2 laterals, however, bidirectional assimilation was observed, to different degrees at the individual level. All women restructured their L1-L2 lateral system, with the largest deviances from monolingual Bosnian laterals, and the smallest deviances from monolingual German laterals. Men did not show assimilation of L1-laterals, and only three out of seven produced a separate L2 category. Those speakers who produced nativelike L2-laterals used separate categories, whereas others either used one composite or separate L1-L2 categories. Moreover, results showed a relation between lateral production and perceived accentedness. However, speakers with better L2-ratings even received worse L1-ratings than revealed by L1-production data. Bilinguals were rated as more accented than monolinguals, independently of gender, with a larger interspeaker difference in females. Qualitative analyses suggested that the strongest individual differences in production and rating result from extreme language experiences, as well as from quantity/quality of language use. The present study thus supports some of the main predictions by the Speech Learning Model, insofar as bidirectional assimilation is found for similar sounds, whereas dissimilation is found for the more different L1 sound. However, with regard to new category formation, the results do not provide evidence for a link between L2 input quantity or L2 proficiency and category formation. Overall, the present study provides further evidence for the inevitable interaction (although not necessarily bidirectional) of phonetic-phonological systems in late bilingual speakers. The findings contribute to the view that the phonetic-phonological system remains malleable across lifetime. This is specifically suggested by strong L1 attrition and by target-like L2 productions of some of the speakers.
... While the majority of L1 attrition studies have focused on linguistic levels such as syntax, morphology, and the lexicon (Schmid 2002), recent years have seen a proliferation of research on phonetic and phonological attrition. So far, studies evidenced changes to the L1 in both segmental (Bergmann et al. 2016;de Leeuw et al. 2013;de Leeuw et al. 2018b;de Leeuw 2019a;Guion 2003;Kornder and Mennen 2021;Major 1992;Mayr et al. 2012;Stoehr et al. 2017;Ulbrich and Ordin 2014) and prosodic (de Leeuw et al. 2012;Mennen and Chousi 2018) areas of L1 production. While the above studies provide evidence for phonetic attrition, changes in L1 phonology have also been reported, resulting in, for instance, a neutralization of phonological contrasts (Cho and Lee 2016;de Leeuw et al. 2018a;Dmitrieva et al. 2010) or a change in L1-specific prominence patterns in anaphora resolution (Gargiulo and Tronnier 2020). ...
... Dissimilation or polarization refers to a shift of the L1 sound away from both L1 and L2 norms, resulting from "overshooting" the L1 norm (Flege and Eefting 1987;de Leeuw et al. 2012). According to the Speech Learning Model (SLM) (Flege 1995;Flege and Bohn 2021), which has been adopted in a number of previous studies on L1 attrition of speech (Mayr et al. 2012;Bergmann et al. 2016;de Leeuw et al. 2018a;de Leeuw et al. 2018b;Mayr et al. 2020), these assimilation and dissimilation effects arise because L1 and L2 phonetic categories exist in a common phonetic space, and are, therefore, likely to influence one another. Assimilation results from the learners' inability to discern phonetic differences between L1 and L2 sounds, which "may cause the L1 sound to shift toward (assimilate to) the L2 sound in phonetic space" (Flege and Bohn 2021, p. 42). ...
Article
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The present study sought to examine the effect of dual language activation on L1 speech in late English–Austrian German sequential bilinguals, and to identify relevant predictor variables. To this end, we compared the English speech patterns of adult migrants to Austria in a code-switched and monolingual condition alongside those of monolingual native speakers in England in a monolingual condition. In the code-switched materials, German words containing target segments known to trigger cross-linguistic interaction in the two languages (i.e., [v–w], [ʃt(ʁ)-st(ɹ)] and [l-ɫ]) were inserted into an English frame; monolingual materials comprised English words with the same segments. To examine whether the position of the German item affects L1 speech, the segments occurred either before the switch (“He wants a Wienerschnitzel”) or after (“I like Würstel with mustard”). Critical acoustic measures of these segments revealed no differences between the groups in the monolingual condition, but significant L2-induced shifts in the bilinguals’ L1 speech production in the code-switched condition for some sounds. These were found to occur both before and after a code-switch, and exhibited a fair amount of individual variation. Only the amount of L2 use was found to be a significant predictor variable for shift size in code-switched compared with monolingual utterances, and only for [w]. These results have important implications for the role of dual activation in the speech of late sequential bilinguals.
... Attrition is evidenced when speakers show changes in how particular phones are realized as a result of acquisition of and long-term exposure to an additional language in adulthood (cf. Flege and Hillenbrand 1984;Major 1992;Ulbrich and Ordin 2014;Mayr et al. 2012;de Leeuw et al. 2018). Applying a similar line of reasoning as above, we argue that attrition can also be reflected in the "loss" or weakening of the constraints governing the distribution of Tagalog (r), and so we might expect heritage speakers with long-term exposure to English to also show an overall increased and lessconstrained use of the approximant. ...
Article
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Heritage language variation and change provides an opportunity to examine the interplay of contact-induced and language-internal effects while extending the variationist framework beyond monolingual speakers and majority languages. Using data from the Heritage Language Variation and Change in Toronto Project, we illustrate this with a case study of Tagalog (r), which varies between tap, trill, and approximant variants. Nearly 3000 tokens of (r)-containing words were extracted from a corpus of spontaneous speech of 23 heritage speakers in Toronto and 9 homeland speakers in Manila. Intergenerational and intergroup analyses were conducted using mixed-effects modeling. Results showed greater use of the approximant among second-generation (GEN2) heritage speakers and those that self-report using English more. In addition, the distributional patterns remain robust and the approximant appears in more contexts. We argue that these patterns reflect an interplay between internal and external processes of change. We situate these findings within a framework for distinguishing sources of variation in heritage languages: internal change, identity marking and transfer from the dominant language.
... In contrast, an extensive body of literature has documented pervasive changes in L1 accent in bilinguals who are long-term residents in an L2-speaking environment. At the phonetic level, such instances of L1 attrition have been shown to affect the production of VOT in plosives (Flege 1987;Major 1992;Mayr et al. 2012;Stoehr et al. 2017), formant frequencies in vowels (Bergmann et al. 2016;Guion 2003;Mayr et al. 2012), laterals (de Leeuw et al. 2013de Leeuw 2019) and rhotics (de Leeuw et al. 2018b;Ulbrich and Ordin 2014), and the realization of tonal alignment (de Leeuw et al. 2012;Mennen 2004). Attrition has also been shown to affect L1 perception (Ahn et al. 2017;Dmitrieva 2019) and may result in the neutralization of native phonological contrasts (Cho and Lee 2016;de Leeuw et al. 2018a). ...
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The present study examines the perceived L1 accent of two groups of native Spaniards in the United Kingdom, Spanish teachers, and non-teachers, alongside monolingual controls in Spain. While the bilingual groups were carefully matched on a range of background variables, the teachers used Spanish significantly more at work where they constantly need to co-activate it alongside English. This allowed us to test the relative effect of reduced L1 use and dual language activation in first language attrition directly. To obtain global accentedness ratings, monolingual native Spanish listeners living in Spain participated in an online perception experiment in which they rated short speech samples extracted from a picture-based narrative produced by each speaker in terms of their perceived nativeness, and indicated which features they associated with non-nativeness. The results revealed significantly greater foreign-accent ratings for teachers than non-teachers and monolinguals, but no difference between the latter two. Non-native speech was associated with a range of segmental and suprasegmental features. These results suggest that language teachers who teach their L1 in an L2-speaking environment may be particularly prone to L1 attrition since they need to co-activate both their languages in professional settings and are regularly exposed to non-native speech from L2 learners.
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While much research has examined second language (L2) phonetic acquisition, less research has examined first language (L1) attrition in terms of the voice onset time (VOT) of voiceless stops. The current study examined L2 acquisition and L1 attrition in the VOT of word-initial voiceless stops among late English–Arabic and Arabic–English bilinguals in order to explore the role of phonetic similarity in L2 acquisition and L1 attrition of speech. The study included 60 participants: 15 monolingual Arabic speakers, 15 monolingual English speakers, 15 English–Arabic bilinguals and 15 Arabic–English bilinguals. The bilinguals had been living in their L2 environment for more than 15 years. The participants narrated two cartoons in Arabic and/or three in English. The monolingual groups’ results revealed clear cross-language differences in the VOT of voiceless plosives between the two languages. Phonetic similarity affected L2 acquisition in that those L2 sounds that were close in phonetic space to L1 sounds (i.e. /t/ and /k/) were more difficult to acquire than those that were dissimilar to L1 sounds (i.e. /p/). However, L1 attrition showed an asymmetric pattern, occurring only in the English–Arabic bilinguals’ productions of the English /k/. We suggest that markedness might contribute to explaining this asymmetry.
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