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Voice Onset Time in Pomerano-Brazilian Portuguese bilinguals


Abstract and Figures

Pomerano is a scarcely researched variety of Low German, which was brought to Southern Brazil by large groups of immigrants from former Pomerania in the 1850s. Today, the language is still used in situations of informal communication in the respective communities, along with the majority language, Brazilian Portuguese (BP). The long-lasting contact between Pomerano and BP has left several traces in both languages at all linguistic levels, including segmental phonology. Our study examines the Voice Onset Time (VOT) patterns of stop consonants in the two languages spoken by bilinguals. Control data gathered from monolingually raised speakers of BP are taken into account. The language pair under investigation displays the typical Germanic vs. Romance contrast, in that the phonological fortis-lenis opposition is phonetically realized by means of a long vs. short lag distinction in Pomerano, whereas BP exhibits a voicing lead for the lenis stops and a short lag for their fortis counterparts. Based on production data collected using a picture naming task in Pomerode (Santa Catarina, Brazil), it is shown that both elderly and younger speakers show the expected Germanic contrast in Pomerano. Regarding BP, the monolingual speakers present the typical Romance contrast, while the younger bilinguals display a mixed system in that they pre-voice /b d ɡ/, but aspirate the voiceless stops. The older bilinguals, finally, use the same Germanic contrast in both of their languages, thus showing massive transfer from Pom-erano to BP. Referring to Labov's concept of overt vs. covert prestige, we argue that the latter, as becomes manifest in the stressing of a 'Germanic' feature of pronunciation, operates within both generations, although its effect can be felt with less intensity among the younger bilinguals.
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Mario Ruiz Moreno & Christoph Gabriel
Voice Onset Time in Pomerano-Brazilian Portuguese bilinguals
Abstract. Pomerano is a scarcely researched variety of Low German, which was
brought to Southern Brazil by large groups of immigrants from former Pomerania in the
1850s. Today, the language is still used in situations of informal communication in the
respective communities, along with the majority language, Brazilian Portuguese (BP).
The long-lasting contact between Pomerano and BP has left several traces in both lan-
guages at all linguistic levels, including segmental phonology. Our study examines the
Voice Onset Time (VOT) patterns of stop consonants in the two languages spoken by
bilinguals. Control data gathered from monolingually raised speakers of BP are taken
into account. The language pair under investigation displays the typical Germanic vs.
Romance contrast, in that the phonological fortis-lenis opposition is phonetically real-
ized by means of a long vs. short lag distinction in Pomerano, whereas BP exhibits a
voicing lead for the lenis stops and a short lag for their fortis counterparts. Based on
production data collected using a picture naming task in Pomerode (Santa Catarina,
Brazil), it is shown that both elderly and younger speakers show the expected Germanic
contrast in Pomerano. Regarding BP, the monolingual speakers present the typical Ro-
mance contrast, while the younger bilinguals display a mixed system in that they pre-
voice /b d ɡ/, but aspirate the voiceless stops. The older bilinguals, finally, use the same
Germanic contrast in both of their languages, thus showing massive transfer from Pom-
erano to BP. Referring to Labov’s concept of overt vs. covert prestige, we argue that the
latter, as becomes manifest in the stressing of a ‘Germanic’ feature of pronunciation,
operates within both generations, although its effect can be felt with less intensity
among the younger bilinguals.
1. Introduction
Research on diaspora varieties of German has largely concentrated on phe-
nomena other than pronunciation (cf. the volume edited by Földes 2019 for
an overview). This also holds true for varieties of Central and Low German
such as Hunsrückisch or Pommerisch (henceforth: Pomerano), which were
brought to Southern Brazil by immigrants from former Pomerania in the
early 19th century and which nowadays are still spoken in the respective bi-
lingual communities along with Brazilian Portuguese (BP). Only few em-
pirical studies have addressed specific features of Pomerano segmental
phonology, among them the production of stop consonants (cf. Schaeffer/
Gabriel, Christoph / Pešková, Andrea / Selig, Meisenburg (eds.): Contact, variation and change. Studies in
honor of Trudel Meisenburg (Studienreihe Romania 35). Berlin: Erich Schmidt, 57–77.
Ruiz Moreno & Gabriel
Meireles 2011; Postma 2019: 32–34). These segments constitute a fruitful
testing ground for the investigation of cross-linguistic influence (CLI) be-
tween the community language, Pomerano (Germanic), and the surround-
ing language, BP (Romance), since the characteristics of the lenis and fortis
plosives, i.e. /b d ɡ/ and /p t k/, respectively, fundamentally differ from one
another in the two languages (cf. 2.2).1 The present contribution aims to fill
a research gap in this respect by not only analyzing the acoustic features of
these segments in both of the languages spoken by the bilinguals as well as
in monolingual BP control data recorded by speakers from the same region,
but also by taking into account different age groups (cf. Section 3). The in-
terpretation of the results within the context of the Labovian distinction of
so-called overt vs. covert prestige (cf. Labov 1966/2006) will hopefully add
to our understanding of the interdependencies between speakers’ attitudes
and beliefs and sound production in multilingual communities.
Our paper is organized as follows. In a first step, the reader is provided
with the relevant background information regarding both the sociohistorical
context of Pomerano in Southern Brazil and the specific feature of stop
production we analyze, i.e. the VOT patterns of Romance and Germanic
languages (cf. Section 2). The following section is devoted to the presenta-
tion of the empirical study and the respective results (cf. Section 3). Section
4, finally, offers an outlook and some concluding remarks.
2. Background
This section offers an overview of the research background. First, the read-
er is provided with the relevant information on the Low German diaspora
variety under discussion, Pomerano, focusing on both its history and the
current contact situation with BP in Southern Brazil (cf. 2.1). Section 2.2,
then, concentrates on the production of stop consonants in the two language
families the varieties addressed belong to, i.e. Germanic and Romance. In a
last step, we offer a brief survey of the recent literature on VOT patterns in
the speech of multilinguals (cf. 2.3).
1 CLI also shows up in other areas of Pomerano phonology. For instance, front
rounded vowels such as [y] are occasionally replaced by their unrounded
counterparts in young BP-dominant speakers’ productions, e.g. [myts] ~
[mits] ‘cap’. A further example is the spreading of the nasal feature to adja-
cent vowels following the BP model as in e.g. [ʃŋ] ‘snake’ (cf. Schaeffer/
Meireles 2014: 52; Postma 2019: 68–69).
Voice Onset Time in Pomerano-Brazilian Portuguese bilinguals
2.1 Pomerano: a Low German variety spoken in Southern Brazil
Pomerano is a Low German variety originally spoken in the extinct prov-
inces of Eastern Hither Pomerania (German: Ostvorpommern) and Farther
Pomerania (German: Hinterpommern; cf. Rost 2008; da Silveira 2010;
Postma 2019: 1–9). These territories nowadays belong to Poland and virtu-
ally host no German-speaking populations. As early as in 1824, the first
Pomerano speakers came to Brazil; however, the largest contingents ar-
rived during the period of 1850–1870 and settled in various locations
throughout the country (cf. Beilke 2013). Tressmann (2007; 2011) indicates
that Pomerano is nowadays spoken in the Brazilian states of Espírito Santo,
Minas Gerais, Rondônia, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, as a result
of the immigration of around 30,000 speakers (cf. Struck 1992: 56). Tress-
mann (2011) reports a number of about 300,000 descendants of Pomerani-
an immigrants in Brazil, though without differentiating between those who
actually speak Pomerano and those who have abandoned the Germanic va-
riety spoken by their ancestors.
Immediately after their arrival in Brazil, Pomerano speakers got in
close contact with speakers of other Low German varieties as well as with
speakers of German origin outside the Low German-speaking domain, giv-
en that German settlers of different origins got mixed during the foundation
of many cities (cf. Willems 1946: 61–78 for a detailed description). As de-
scribed in Tressmann (1998), it was not infrequent that some contingents of
Pomerano speakers were outnumbered by those of Hunsrückisch (a form of
West Central German spoken in, for instance, Rio Grande do Sul; cf. Al-
tenhofen 1996) or vice versa, which resulted in a linguistic shift toward the
prevailing linguistic form in the area. Additionally, these speakers were to a
greater or lesser extent as well in contact with Standard German (so-called
Hochdeutsch), which was used as the language of instruction in locally
supported schools (cf. Fossile 2010) and in the local press.2 Moreover,
German has always been highly valued given its status as a church lan-
guage within this protestant community.
The situation described so far was quite stable for several decades. As
noted in Vandresen/Rodrigues (2008), there were numerous monolingual
communities until 1937, since mixed marriages with the local catholic pop-
ulation were difficult for religious reasons. This might explain the fact that
as late as in 1940, 97% of the population of the city of Blumenau (located
at a distance of 31 kilometers from Pomerode) declared to use “German” as
their home language (cf. Fritzen 2008). However, Portuguese gradually
2 A standardized orthography for Pomerano was established only recently by
Tressmann (2006); cf. Postma (2019: 31) for an overview.
Ruiz Moreno & Gabriel
gained new domains, since more and more immigrants from other parts of
Brazil settled in the Southern regions, thereby consistently altering the so-
ciolinguistic dynamics of the area.
During Getúlio Vargas’ dictatorship (1937–1945), the Pomerian lan-
guage was severely persecuted (cf. da Silveira 2010). This period was char-
acterized by the government’s attempts to achieve national homogenization
and a complete lack of respect for other languages, which lead many par-
ents to use solely Portuguese with their children (cf. Maltzahn 2018). It
comes as no surprise that with the events in World War II the sociolinguis-
tic status of Pomerano and (Standard) German, which were both perceived
as the language of the enemy, was weakened even more in Brazil, ending in
a complete ban of both German language classes from schools and the use
of German in educational institutions. Under these circumstances, preserv-
ing any language other than Portuguese was already a hard-won success,
but Pomerano-(Standard) German-Portuguese trilingualism was particular-
ly challenging to maintain. The current general situation of the language
differs vastly from one place to another. In some communities, German is
on decline, whereas Pomerano is still much spoken (cf. Vandresen/Rodri-
gues 2008); conversely, in Pomerode, where our data collection took place,
the situation has been reversed and Pomerano has lost its predominance
over German during the last decades (cf. Maltzahn 2018).
2.2 Stop consonants in Germanic and Romance
Stop production varies considerably between languages and language fami-
lies. A salient feature that differentiates the language-specific realizations
of plosives is the so-called Voice Onset Time (VOT), which refers to the
time elapsing between the release of the stop and the voicing onset of the
following vowel (cf. Lisker/Abramson 1964: 389; Cho/Ladefoged 1999;
Gabriel et al. 2013: 60–62). Three types of VOT are usually distinguished:
(1) pre-voicing or voicing lead, i.e. the vibration of the vocal folds starts prior
to the release, which yields negative VOT values,
(2) short lag, i.e. voicing starts with or shortly after the release, which yields a
short positive VOT and, finally,
(3) long lag, i.e. voicing starts considerably after the release, yielding a long
positive VOT.
Most languages present a binary phonological contrast (lenis-fortis) which
is cross-linguistically associated with different VOT types. Tab. 1 summa-
rizes the characteristics of stop consonants and their respective VOT pat-
terns in Germanic and Romance.
Voice Onset Time in Pomerano-Brazilian Portuguese bilinguals
(negative VOT)
short lag
(short positive VOT)
long lag
(long positive VOT)
Germanic [b̥ d̥ ɡ̊] <b d g>
lenis (devoiced)
hthkh] <p t k>
fortis (voiceless, aspirated)
Romance [b d ɡ] <b d g>
lenis (fully voiced)
t k] <p t k>
fortis (voiceless)
Tab. 1. VOT patterns and orthographic representations of stop consonants in Germanic
(Pomerano, German) and Romance (BP).
Within the Germanic family, which includes both Standard German and
Pomerano, most languages phonetically express the lenis-fortis opposition
by short-lagged unaspirated (devoiced) [b̥ d̥ ɡ̊] on the one hand and long-
lagged [ph th kh] on the other. 3 In German, aspiration does not occur in con-
sonant clusters and is strongest before stressed vowels (cf. Wiese 1996:
270). Recent studies reported VOTs of 76 ms (cf. van de Weijer/Kupisch
2015: 417) and 78.5 ms (cf. Lein et al. 2016: 739) as average values for
/p t k/. For /k/, where VOT is highest, former studies reported dramatically
lower VOT durations of 37–67 ms (cf. Stock 1971; Fischer-Jørgensen
1979), but these values might have been influenced by both diatopic varia-
tion and the materials analyzed, e.g. the fact that no distinction was made
between onsets of unstressed and stressed syllables (cf. Lein et al. 2016:
735 for an overview). As compared to German, empirical research on stop
production in Pomerano, which also exhibits the typical Germanic contrast,
is quite scarce. Postma (2019: 32) points out that “aspiration is […] weaker
than in Standard German”, though without presenting any VOT measure-
ments. Schaeffer/Meireles (2011: 4013) report for /p t k/ long lag VOT
values of 52, 54 and 72 ms, as expected;4 for the lenis stops, their meas-
urements present some inconsistencies in that /b/ is pre-voiced (-26 ms),
while /d ɡ/ present short lag VOTs of 17 and 3 ms, respectively.
The literature on Brazilian Portuguese (BP), finally, reports the ex-
pected contrast of truly or pre-voiced lenis and short-lagged fortis stops (cf.
Melo et al. 2014: 491, using lab data, both word-initially and -medially).
3 Not all Germanic languages follow this pattern: Swedish has a mixed sys-
tem, which comprises pre-voiced lenis and aspirated fortis plosives (cf. Hel-
gason/Ringen 2008). Dutch, finally, patterns with the Romances family in
exhibiting truly voiced /b d ɡ/ and unaspirated /p t k/ (cf. van Alphen/Smits
2004). Dialectal variation in German is addressed later in this section.
4 The values for Pomerano voiceless stops reported by Bandeira/Zimmer
(2011: 93) slightly differ from the ones given by Schaeffer/Meireles (2011),
i.e. 51 ms for /p/, 42 ms for /t/ and 76 ms for /k/. The fact that the value for
the alveolar stop is (atypically) lower than the one for the bilabial plosive is
not commented on by the authors.
Ruiz Moreno & Gabriel
Reis/Nobre-Oliveira’s (2007: 402) study on the learning of L2 English by
BP natives is confined to voiceless stops and reports for the learners’ L1
the expected short-lagged productions (i.e. 17.27 ms for /p/, 23.55 ms for /t/
and 46.55 ms for /k/).
As shown in Tab. 1, the Germanic realization of the lenis plosives
roughly patterns with the production of their fortis counterparts in Ro-
mance. Transfer of VOT patterns as frequently occurs in situations of lan-
guage contact and foreign language learning can thus provoke misunder-
standings among speakers. For instance, an intended production of the
Portuguese verb form bato /ˈbato/ ‘I hit’ (1SG.PRS of bater), pronounced as
[ˈb̥atu]/[ˈpatu] by a learner whose L1 is a Germanic variety, might be misin-
terpreted by Portuguese listeners as pato ‘duck’. Note that misinterpreta-
tions of this kind may also occur between speakers of varieties of the same
language which differ from one another regarding their VOT patterns, as
e.g. Northern Standard and Vienna German.5 However, since isolated pro-
ductions of single words rarely occur in natural conversation and the inter-
pretation of an utterance is highly supported by the respective (linguistic
and extra-linguistic) context, communication is usually not disturbed by
such instances of CLI. However, stop production crucially contributes to
the perception of both foreign accent (in non-native speech) and the per-
ceived ‘otherness’ of varieties other than the one which is spoken by the
hearer. This aspect will be discussed in more detail in 3.4.
2.3 VOT patterns in multilingual speakers
At least since the publication of Laeufer’s (1997) seminal paper, the char-
acteristics of VOT patterns in the production of speakers who use more
than one language regularly cannot be claimed to be an understudied field
(cf. Kupisch/Lleó 2017 for a summary of recent research). While simulta-
neously bilingual children who acquire two languages that differ from one
another concerning their VOT patterns (e.g. Spanish and English) tend to
separate the phonologies of their languages with respect to this feature (cf.
Deuchar/Clark 1996), evidence for transfer of VOT patterns was found in
many other multilingual constellations. For instance, Fowler et al. (2008)
investigated the production of voiceless stops in sequential bilinguals of
Canadian French and English, showing that the VOT values of the lan-
5 Cf. e.g. Gepäck ‘luggage’, which is pronounced in Vienna German with a
shorter VOT for the word-medial fortis plosive /p/ than in Northern German
(cf. Moosmüller et al. 2015: 341), and might thus be misinterpreted as an in-
stance of intended Gebäck ‘biscuits, pastries’ by Northern German listeners.
Voice Onset Time in Pomerano-Brazilian Portuguese bilinguals
guage acquired later were considerably influenced by the speakers’ L1. CLI
was also reported to occur in speakers of a heritage language (HL). As
shown by Kupisch/Lleó (2017), both heritage speakers of German living in
Italy and speakers of Italian as a HL who live in Germany had developed
intermediate VOT values for /k/ in their respective HL, situated between
the ones reported for German/Italian spoken by monolinguals. Interesting-
ly, the authors also showed that, at least in some of their participants, not
only the HL, but also the surrounding language was affected by VOT trans-
fer. Similarly, Post/Jones (this volume) showed that English-French late bi-
linguals living in the UK for at least 10 years have developed compromise
values for /t/, situated between the durations of the two monolingual varie-
ties, English and French. Finally, CLI in the realm of stop production is
widely attested in foreign language (FL) learning, e.g. in English learners
of Spanish, who transfer the long-lagged realizations of voiceless plosives
from their L1 to the FL (cf. e.g. Zampini 2014) and, though to a lesser ex-
tent, also in heritage speakers of Spanish residing in English- or German-
speaking environments (cf. Amengual 2012; Ruiz Moreno 2019). Positive
transfer of VOT values from the HLs Russian and Turkish, respectively, in
adolescent multilingual learners who acquire French as a FL in the German
educational context was reported by Gabriel et al. (2018).
3. Empirical study
In the following, we first outline our research questions (3.1) and the meth-
odology of our study (3.2). In a next step, we present the results (3.3) and
discuss them in the context of Labovian sociolinguistics (3.4).
3.1 Research questions
Our research had a double goal. First, it was aimed to describe the VOT
patterns of the two languages spoken by a group of Pomerano-BP bilingual
speakers from Pomerode (Santa Catarina) and to thereby answer the ques-
tion of whether phonic transfer occurs within this community. Second, giv-
en the growing influence of BP among younger speakers and the circum-
stances of linguistic repression typical of the mature speakers’ childhood,
we aimed to determine whether two different generations diverted in their
VOT patterns. This aspect had not been investigated before, since the
scarce previous studies on Pomerano VOT focused only on younger speak-
ers (aged 15–24 in Schaeffer/Meireles 2011 and 8–10 in Bandeira/Zimmer
Ruiz Moreno & Gabriel
2011), which contrasts with the wider age range of the speakers recorded in
the context of our study.
3.2 Methods, speakers and materials
A total of 18 participants took part in this research: 4 monolingual speakers
of the local BP variety (mean age: 39; each 2 males and females; group M),
7 bilinguals younger than 70 (mean age: 57; 6 males, 1 female; group B70)
and, finally, 7 bilinguals older than 70 (mean age: 81; 4 males, 3 females;
group B>70).6 All participants were contacted with the help and mediation
of a local, who also introduced the instructor to the participants and was
present at each interview, which created a friendly atmosphere. Since there
is a wide consensus in the literature on allochthonous languages in Brazil
that the dictatorship had a deep impact on these languages, we decided to
split the participants in these two groups instead of running correlations be-
tween their VOT values and the ages of our participants to test whether the
deep impact that the dictatorship had on aspects such as language use and
language attitudes was also reflected in their VOT production. The cutting-
point was established at the age of 70 because the data were collected in
2015 and the dictatorship ended in 1945; consequently, the participants
born after the dictatorship fell into one group and those born before or dur-
ing it into another one. All of the participants had the option to receive the
instructions in German or Portuguese and they typically chose German.
The data collection was carried out in Pomerode (Santa Catarina) in Jan-
uary 2015.
Before proceeding to the recordings, the instructor and the participants
chatted informally for a while, and then the instructions were given. The
data were collected using a picture naming task. Participants were ex-
plained that they would be shown a series of pictures on a laptop screen
6 Regarding possible gender differences in VOT production, the picture that
emerges from the literature is inconsistent. Some studies report longer VOTs
in male speakers, e.g. for Florentine Italian, where respective gender differ-
ences seem to be linked to register and socio-economic status of the speakers
(cf. Piccardi 2017); others, however, found greater VOT values in female
speech (cf. Swartz 1992 for US English). Still others found sex differences in
VOT production for young children, but not in adult speech (cf. Karlsson et
al. 2004 for Swedish). To our knowledge, no empirical study reports system-
atic sex or gender-based differences in VOT measurements for BP. We thus
conclude that the male-biased gender distribution of our younger bilingual
group (86% males) does not question its comparability with the non-biased
group of the older bilinguals presenting an equal ratio of males and females.
Voice Onset Time in Pomerano-Brazilian Portuguese bilinguals
and that they were required to utter just one word to name the depicted
item. They were also given the opportunity to choose the language in which
they wished to be recorded first (i.e. either Pomerano or BP). Finally, they
were explained that the research was by no means a kind of exam to test
their knowledge of Pomerano or BP since no right or wrong answer was
expected; they were solely required to speak as naturally as possible. 18
items were recorded in Pomerano and 19 in BP, using a Marantz profes-
sional PMD671 sound recorder. The items contained /b d ɡ/ and /p t k/ in
the onset position of word-initial stressed syllables in both languages. Bauk
‘book’, tung ‘tongue’, täne ‘teeth’, dek ‘blanket’ or pol ‘onion’ exemplify
this in Pomerano, whereas gota ‘drop’, carro ‘car’, pera ‘pear’, dado ‘dice’
or dedo ‘finger’ in BP. Both words with initial stops followed by front vs.
back vowels were selected in a balanced way.
In rare occasions, participants uttered non-targeted words. In these cas-
es, they were first asked to use a synonym. When this proved unsuccessful,
they were told the expected word and asked to repeat it. Additionally, it
must be noted that, given the advanced age of the older group of bilinguals,
most but not all items were successfully recorded by each speaker. In some
cases, for instance, participants refused to utter the Pomerode word denot-
ing a glass instead of the one meaning ‘cup’. In others, they only murmured
the target item even when asked to repeat it audibly. The VOT measure-
ments were done using Praat (Boersma/Weenink 2014); an example is giv-
en in Fig. 1.
Fig. 1. VOT measurement of the Pomerano item dek ‘blanket’ produced with a short lag
([d̥ɛk]) in Praat (VOT duration: 12.8 ms).
Ruiz Moreno & Gabriel
3.3 Results
This section gives an overview of the results. Fig. 2 and Tab. 2 represent
the VOT measurements for the BP data.
Fig. 2. Mean VOT values (ms) for the BP items produced by three groups of speakers,
i.e. older bilinguals (B>70), younger bilinguals (B70) and BP monolinguals (M).
B>70 B70 M
/ 38 14.00 27 6.32 15 1.47
/t/ 37 5.40 31 1.60 21 1.97
/k/ 51 11.07 49 9.62 46 8.29
/b/ -4 30.45 -76 24.76 -66 9.89
/d/ 5 24.79 -83 27.23 -60 11.74
/ɡ/ 16 15.47 -63 24.58 -58 20.60
Tab. 2. Mean VOT values (ms) and standard deviations (SD) for the BP items produced
by three groups of speakers, older bilinguals (B>70), younger bilinguals (B70) and BP
monolinguals (M); all differences statistically significant (Kruskal-Wallis, Mann-Whitney)
between groups except for /k/.
As can be seen in Fig. 2 and Tab. 2, the older bilinguals (B>70) clearly fol-
low a different path than the younger bilinguals (B70) and the BP mono-
linguals (M) in that they produce Portuguese lenis stops with short lag, i.e.
as they would in Pomerano (cf. below). Fully voiced instances of /b d ɡ/
occur only rarely in this group; two of the B>70 speakers produced a single
voiced token for /b/. These two outliers were nevertheless included in the
mean, since they correspond to the target form in BP. The most common
phonetic realization for /b/, however, in group B>70 is a (Germanic) short-
Voice Onset Time in Pomerano-Brazilian Portuguese bilinguals
lagged voiceless (or: devoiced) stop, but given the restricted data bases,
two tokens with negative VOTs are sufficient to distort the mean. Lastly,
the fortis tokens in this group are also clearly more aspirated than those
produced by the monolinguals (M) and the younger bilinguals (B70), ex-
cept for /k/.
In turn, the younger generation of bilingual speakers (B70) represents
an intermediate position. They pattern with the monolinguals in clearly pre-
voicing the lenis plosives /b d ɡ/, but they differ from them in their VOTs
for /p t k/, which are considerably more aspirated, although to a lesser ex-
tent than those produced by the older bilinguals (B>70).
Statistical analyses were done in SPSS. A battery of Mann-Whitney
tests confirmed that the older bilinguals (group B>70) differ significantly
from the monolinguals (group M) for every single phoneme except for /k/,7
whereas the younger bilinguals (B70) only presented significant differ-
ences for /p/ and /t/, when compared to the BP monolinguals (group M).
Finally, when comparing both bilingual groups, significant differences
were found for /b d ɡ/, /p/8 and /t/.
The results for Pomerano are represented in Fig. 3 and Tab. 3, below.
Fig. 3. Mean VOT values (ms) for the Pomerano items produced by two groups of
speakers, i.e. older (B>70) and younger bilinguals (B70).
7 As can be seen in Fig. 2, above, there are indeed the same differences which
follow the pattern found for /p/ and /t/, but given the limited number of to-
kens, differences need to be considerably large to reach statistical signifi-
cance. In this very case, our BP monolinguals seem to have aspirated /k/ to a
somewhat greater extent than normally. Note that, nevertheless, their VOT
values were lower than those produced by the bilinguals.
8 The p-value for /p/ is 0.097, which we consider nonetheless as a significant
difference since we set α at 0.1 as suggested by Larson-Hall (2010: 98–99)
for statistical tests applied in the field of linguistics.
Ruiz Moreno & Gabriel
B>70 B70
/ 51 13.49 43 15.49
/t/ 56 8.28 51 12.69
/k/ 71 11.83 71 11.75
/b/ 14 4.90 14 3.06
/d/ 21 7.91 25 9.95
/ɡ/ no data
Tab. 3. Mean VOT values (ms) and standard deviations (SD) for the Pomerano items
produced by two groups of speakers, i.e. older (B>70) and younger bilinguals (B70);
differences between groups not significant. No data were obtained for /ɡ/, which was
produced as a velar approximant by all speakers.
Not unexpectedly, no measurements of [ɡ] could be obtained, since no
speaker produced a stop for initial <g>, but rather a velar approximant or
glide as in the study by Schaeffer/Meireles (2014); cf. also Postma (2019:
32). As for the remaining stops, no statistical differences between the two
bilingual groups were found, which automatically discards the possibility
that the differences in their BP may be attributable to existing differences
in their Germanic L1. Both groups consistently produced voiceless unaspi-
rated tokens for the lenis stops, and the fortis counterparts were clearly as-
pirated. In other words, whereas [±voicing] is the contrasting feature for BP
stops, [±aspiration] is the feature whereby the phonological contrast is
maintained in Pomerano.
It is worth noting that there were four instances (two of them produced
by the same speaker) of pre-voiced lenis stops, i.e. [b d ɡ], which were not
included in the calculus of the group means to prevent extreme distortions.
The apparent asymmetry in the treatment of these outliers and those found
in the BP data is justified by the fact that, in this occasion, we are dealing
with clearly non-target forms. Furthermore, the presence of voicing in these
tokens cannot be exclusively attributed to the long-lasting contact of Pom-
erano with BP, since even among Low German speakers in Germany the
presence of voicing is not rare (cf. Ouddeken 2016); it is simply phonologi-
cally redundant.
Summing up, the phonological contrast for the BP and Pomerano stops
in each group can be described as follows.
Voice Onset Time in Pomerano-Brazilian Portuguese bilinguals
BP Pomerano
pre-voicing short lag long lag pre-voicing short lag long lag
B>70 /b̥ d̥ ɡ̊/ /
ʰ tʰ kʰ/ /b̥ d̥ ɡ̊/ /
ʰ tʰ kʰ/
B70 /b d ɡ/ /
ʰ tʰ kʰ/ /b̥ d̥ ɡ̊/ /
ʰ tʰ kʰ/
M /b d ɡ/ /
t k/
Tab. 4. Phonological representation of stops in BP and Pomerano in three groups of
speakers, older bilinguals (B>70), younger bilinguals (B70) and BP monolinguals (M).
3.4 Discussion
One of our main goals was to describe the typical VOT values for this
Pomerano-BP bilingual community in order to determine whether or not
CLI at the phonic level had taken place. We also aimed to answer the ques-
tion of whether this possible transfer was subject to intergenerational varia-
tion. Such a scenario was plausible given that in the Pomerano-speaking
communities, BP is gaining more and more ground, particularly among
younger speakers, due to the penetration of BP as a result of Portuguese-
speaking immigration from other regions of Brazil and a more intense ex-
posure to BP through the mass media. The answer to both questions is
clearly affirmative: phonic transfer does occur within this bilingual com-
munity, and there are noticeable differences depending on speaker age.
The first aspect worth noting is that transfer of VOT values is unidirec-
tional: the Pomerano values of these speakers remain unaltered despite the
contact with Portuguese. As opposed to this, their Portuguese VOT values
are affected by the contact with Pomerano. The effect of this contact is
more noticeable for the older generation, since they have substituted the
typical Romance contrast in terms of [±voicing] by their L1 contrast based
on [±aspiration], which is hardly surprising given how unbalanced their
linguistic input was. The younger generation, by contrast, had much contact
with BP since very early childhood, which can be noticed in their ability to
produce truly voiced lenis stops in BP; however, their BP fortis stops are
more aspirated than those produced by our monolinguals. This is interest-
ing, because their mixed VOT system in BP is perfectly functional from a
communicative point of view. Seen from this angle, it is phonologically
important, unlike the older bilinguals, they avoid devoicing in /b d ɡ/ (i.e.
[b̥ d̥ ɡ̊]), since devoiced realizations are easily perceived as /p t k/ by BP
listeners in spite of the tenseness differences. This perceptual overlap caus-
es misspellings in BP among Pomerano speakers (cf. Benincá 2008;
Schaeffer 2010). In contrast, their [pʰ tʰ kʰ] tokens sound certainly odd to
the Brazilian ear used to hearing [p t k], but are perceived as /p t k/ tokens
after all.
Ruiz Moreno & Gabriel
Summing up, whereas the older bilinguals (B>70) make use of a single
VOT system in both languages, leaving their Pomerano VOTs unaltered,
the younger bilinguals (B70) present a different VOT system in both of
their languages. Their Pomerano stops are fully canonical, whereas they
produce canonical lenis stops in BP, but aspirated fortis ones, most likely
due to partial transfer of Pomerano to BP.
It is also of interest to compare the VOT values determined in this
study with those obtained in previous research. The data for BP monolin-
guals in Schaeffer/Meireles (2011), in Reis/Nobre-Oliveira (2007) and Me-
lo et al. (2014) with speakers from Espírito Santo, Santa Catarina and Rio
Grande do Sul, respectively, are in total accord with ours. As for the VOT
values in BP of Pomerano-Portuguese bilinguals, there are some differ-
ences between our study and the other two (cf. Tab. 5). Bandeira/Zimmer
(2011) only report their /p t k/ values, which are clearly more aspirated
than those of our Santa Catarina bilinguals and those of Schaeffer/Meireles
(2011), who collected their data in Espírito Santo. The community studied
by Bandeira/Zimmer (2011) might be less exposed to BP, but it is also
plausible to assume that this phonic difference is simply due to the fact that
their participants were aged 8–10 and thus had had less time to learn to
modulate possible L1 interferences. As for /b d ɡ/, we can see that
Schaeffer/Meireles’ bilinguals, aged 15–25, pattern with our younger group
(B70) in that they also present a mixed model with pre-voiced /b d ɡ/ and
aspirated fortis stops. Their lenis VOT values are nonetheless closer to ze-
ro, which most likely suggest the presence of outliers who produce [b̥ d̥ ɡ̊]
Regarding Pomerano VOT, it is worth highlighting the clear homoge-
neity among studies for the /p t k/ values. For the VOT comparison for
/b d ɡ/, the only available data are those of Schaeffer/Meireles (2011).9
Their values for /d/ are in line with ours, but the negative value for /b/ and
the positive but close to zero for /ɡ/ are rather intriguing and seem to indi-
cate the presence of outliers with voiced tokens for these two stops. As not-
ed before, this is not rare even among Low German speakers with no con-
tact with Romance languages (cf. Ouddeken 2016), but it is definitely not
the canonical form. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that their data are
based on only four participants.
9 Note that their data were elicited using the carrier-sentence Ik sai … nuu ‘I
see … now’ (cf. Schaeffer/Meireles 2011: 4012). Given the influence of the
previous vowel, voicing can occur naturally as a result of assimilation in
their tokens, but not in ours, in which the target segment appeared in abso-
lute initial position.
Voice Onset Time in Pomerano-Brazilian Portuguese bilinguals
study B/Z (2011) S/M (2011) present study
state of data collection RS ES SC
age of participants 8–10 15–25 70 >70
number of participants 20 4 7 7
language BP Pom. BP Pom. BP Pom. BP Pom.
/ 50 51 35 52 27 51 38 43
/b/ -25 -26 -76 14 -4 14
/t/ 59 42 32 54 31 56 37 51
/d/ – – -24 17 -83 21 5 25
/k/ 67 76 49 72 49 71 51 71
/ɡ/ – – -2 3 -63 16
Tab. 5. Comparison with earlier empirical studies on VOT in Pomerano-BP bilinguals
(B/Z (= Bandeira/Zimmer) 2011; S/M (= Schaeffer/Meireles) 2011). RS = Rio Grande
do Sul, ES = Espírito Santo, SC = Santa Catalina.
Finally, a tentative explanation for the intergenerational variation found in
our data will be provided. However, given the modest number of partici-
pants and tokens analyzed, any interpretation must be taken with due cau-
tion. There are – at least – two logical explanations for the age differences
in BP VOT values among our bilinguals, which nonetheless are not mutual-
ly exclusive. One is that they received different amounts of linguistic input
in BP; the other one rather refers to the speakers’ self-concept, i.e. to dif-
ferent sociolinguistic values, which are mirrored in the phonetic forms they
opt for.
Although no self-reports on current or past use of BP were collected for
this research, we can be sure, in light of the linguistic and demographic
changes in Pomerode and Brazil, that, generally, the older generation has
been less exposed to BP than the younger one. However, it must be empha-
sized that the input they received was more than enough to fully acquire
this language. Additionally, bearing in mind the dates of birth of the older
bilinguals (1927, 1929, 1931, 1933, 1936, 1937 and 1943), and even admit-
ting that some of them may have received limited schooling, it seems plau-
sible to assume that most of them received considerable BP input before
puberty (except, perhaps, the two oldest speakers), since German was
banned from schools during Getúlio Vargas’ dictatorship (1937–1945; cf.
Section 2, above). Even admitting that BP has not been their dominant lan-
guage, there is no doubt that most of them must have received considerable
input at a very early age, which, in principle, should be enough so that most
of these older speakers acquired the BP VOT patterns, at least irregularly,
i.e. presenting canonical as well as non-canonical realizations. However,
the production of their BP stops was astonishingly constant in that they
Ruiz Moreno & Gabriel
produced no voiced /b d ɡ/ and always aspirated their /p t k/ tokens, which
leaves the door open to alternative or complementary explanations.
Such an explanation, as advanced before, must probably be linked with
differences in the sociolinguistic values of two age groups. In any linguistic
community, there is always a constant tension between so-called covert and
overt prestige. As Labov showed in his seminal sociolinguistic work on
The social stratification of English in New York (1966/2006), many speak-
ers are fully aware of the linguistic forms that convey more prestige in their
societies and, yet, employ other ones. There is no doubt that the bilingual
speakers are fully aware of the stigmatization of the VOT transfer from
Pomerano to BP because of the mockery they receive due to their ‘German
accent’, and considering both their early exposure to BP and the total ab-
sence of voiced stops in absolute initial position as well as the regular pres-
ence of aspirated stops, it is plausible to argue that these speakers favor the
production of BP stops with a ‘German-like’ pronunciation.
They may have different reasons to do that. On the one hand, speaking
German and/or Low German is of great importance for the cultural and
ethnical identity of this group (cf. Maltzahn 2018). Thus, leaving some
traces of German influence in their BP speech could foster the cohesion of
the group or serve to express part of their identity. A complete absence of
German influence might even be regarded negatively among these speak-
ers, since they could be blamed of sounding too stilted or pedantic. On the
other hand, it is well-known in the field of sociolinguistics that when a
group is “under attack from outside” (Trudgill 2000: 13), as Low German
speakers definitely were during the repression of Getúlio Vargas (cf. Silvei-
ra 2010), the “signals of difference may become more important” (Trudgill
2000: 13) for their speakers, and producing BP stops in a (Low) German
fashion is undoubtedly a distinctive sign.
In our data, 6 participants, all of them older than 70 years, completely
transferred their Pomerano VOT pattern to BP. 5 of them lived the total of
the 8 years of Vargas’ dictatorship. The youngest member of the group
(born in 1943) only was alive during two years of this era. Interestingly,
only one of the speakers brought up during the dictatorship showed no
phonic transfer. It thus seems to be plausible that the presumably traumatic
experience of the years of repression may have triggered an unconscious
desire to preserve linguistic signs of othering. A further aspect that seem-
ingly reinforces the idea that a great deal of covert prestige is attached to
sounding German when speaking BP is the fact that the younger bilinguals
have not abandoned aspirated stops. The pressure of schooling with its em-
phasis on writing and the fact that [b̥ d̥ ɡ̊] perceptually overlaps with [p t k]
has probably led them to abandon these forms and adopt [b d ɡ] instead,
but it can hardly be assumed that these bilinguals do not perceive the dif-
Voice Onset Time in Pomerano-Brazilian Portuguese bilinguals
ference in aspiration for their /p t k/ tokens and those of the monolinguals,
given that aspiration has been identified as a perceptually salient feature
(cf. e.g. Gordon 2018: 62–63; Chang 2018) and their mastery of Pomerano
ensures that they are sensitive to changes in aspiration. Thus, the presence
of aspirated stops in these younger speakers even in adulthood can also be
interpreted as a reflex of the covert prestige that operates within this bilin-
gual community favoring German-accented BP pronunciations that clearly
go against the overt prestige attached to canonically produced BP stops.
Lastly, it is worth remembering that Schaeffer/Meireles’ young bilin-
guals (2011) also present a combination of voiced and aspirated stops in
BP, despite being considerably younger than our younger bilinguals. They
have most likely received even more BP input than the members of our
group B70, which corroborates the idea that the effects of covert prestige
can also be felt in their community and that input alone can hardly explain
the differences found between groups B70 and B>70.
4. Concluding remarks
Our Pomerano-BP bilingual speakers present two different kinds of phonic
transfer: a first one which consists in complete transfer of VOT patterns
from Pomerano to BP (older bilinguals; group B>70) and a second one
which yields a partially fused system comprising non-canonically aspirated
fortis and canonically pre-voiced lenis plosives in BP and a canonical
(Germanic) pattern with non-aspirated and aspirated stops in Pomerano
(younger bilinguals; group B70). Without denying the importance of pos-
sible differences in BP input to account for the intergenerational differ-
ences, we have hypothesized that the linguistic behavior of these speakers
might be at least partially triggered by sociolinguistic motivations. As a
consequence of both the attacks that this linguistic group suffered during
Vargas’ dictatorship and their relative isolation from the BP monolinguals,
they seemingly bestow full importance upon covert prestige, i.e. they value
German-accented pronunciations positively, whilst the younger generation
occupies an intermediate step between the monolinguals and the older gen-
eration, adopting those sounds that are more important from a communica-
tive point of view, i.e. [b d ɡ], but conserving the stigmatized forms
[pʰ tʰ kʰ] that serve them as linguistic identity markers.
By no means can it be assumed that bilingual communities of alloch-
thonous languages in Brazil present no social variation, since no speaker
community is fully homogeneous. However, the sociolinguistic component
is often ignored in the studies with speakers of these communities. Hope-
fully, our study has underlined that further research on allochthonous lan-
Ruiz Moreno & Gabriel
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Acknowledgments. We would like to express our gratitude to all the speakers who par-
ticipated in the study and to Edson Klemann, local activist for the preservation of
Pomerano culture, who kindly helped us to contact some of these speakers.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Full-text available
Awarded with the Werner-Kraus prize by the German Association of Hispanists. The aim of this study was the investigate both the acoustic differences and the global accent ratings of different types of bilinguals. The 40 speakers who participated in the study were divided into five groups (8 members per group). There were two groups of monolinguals (Spanish and German), one group of L1 Spanish – L2 German proficient late bilinguals, and two groups or early bilinguals (most of them also simultaneous bilinguals). For one group of the early bilinguals, Spanish was the societal language during childhood and German the heritage language, whereas the other group was brought up in Germany and acquired Spanish at home. The study combines the use of global accent ratings, as typically done in bilingualism studies (e.g. Flege et al., 1995; or Oyama, 1976), with linguistic (acoustic) analyses, as proposed in Abrahamsson & Hyltenstam (2009). The acoustic studies focus on segmental phonetics, namely different aspects of vowels, stops, fricatives, and rhotics were investigated, which cover more than 75% of the segments of each language. Lastly, the study evaluated the impact of each of these phonetic features in the global accent ratings. The findings support the idea that early exposure to a language does not guarantee a native-like pronunciation (Abrahamsson & Hyltenstam, 2009), as only half of the early bilinguals passed for natives in their heritage language despite presenting few phonetic deviations from monolingual norm. On the contrary, all of them passed for natives in their societal language. In turn, the late bilinguals were very far from monolinguals in the global accent ratings and, to a lesser extent, in the acoustic studies. The evaluation of the impact of each phonetic feature on global accent ratings seemingly suggests that other aspects (most likely intonation) can better account for global accent ratings when the speakers evaluated are highly proficient. Keywords: early bilinguals, late bilinguals, simultaneous bilinguals, heritage-language speakers, Spanish, German, vowels, stops, fricatives, rhotics, and global accent.
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We analyze the production of [±voiced] stops in French as a foreign language by multilingual learners who speak Russian or Turkish as a heritage language along with their dominant language, German. Control data produced by monolingually raised German learners are taken into account. It is shown that the bilingual learners perform more target-like than the monolinguals for the voiceless stops /p t k/, but not for their voiced counterparts /b d ɡ/. This suggests that the (non-)aspiration of voiceless stops is perceptually more salient for the learners than the presence or absence of pre-voicing in the realization of voiceless stops. We interpret our overall results as an example of an at least partial multilingual advantage in foreign language learning. Résumé : Nous analysons la production d'occlusives (non-)voisées en français langue étrangère par des apprenants plurilingues parlant ou le russe ou le turc comme langue d'origine en plus de leur langue dominante, l'allemand. Les données de contrôle proviennent d'enregistrements réalisés avec des apprenants monolingues allemands. Les résultats montrent que les apprenants plurilingues sont avantagés en comparaison des monolingues par rapport à la production d'occlusives sourdes, ce qui n'est pas valable pour leurs contreparties voisées. Cela suggère que la (non-)aspiration de /p t k/ est perceptivement plus saillante pour les apprenants que la présence ou l'absence du pré-voisement de /b d ɡ/. Nous interprétons nos résultats généraux comme un avantage, du moins partiel, du plurilinguisme lors de l'apprentissage de langues étrangères.
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One's native language (L1) is known to influence the development of a nonnative language (L2) at multiple levels, but the nature of L1 transfer to L2 perception remains unclear. This study explored the hypothesis that transfer effects in perception come from L1-specific processing strategies, which direct attention to phonetic cues according to their estimated relative functional load (RFL). Using target languages that were either familiar (English) or unfamiliar (Korean), perception of unreleased final stops was tested in L1 English listeners and four groups of L2 English learners whose L1s differ in stop phonotactics and the estimated RFL of a crucial cue to unreleased stops (i.e., vowel-to-consonant formant transitions). Results were, overall, consistent with the hypothesis, with L1 Japanese listeners showing the poorest perception, followed by L1 Mandarin, Russian, English, and Korean listeners. Two exceptions occurred with Russian listeners, who under-performed Mandarin listeners in identification of English stops and outperformed English listeners in identification of Korean stops. Taken together, these findings support a cue-centric view of transfer based on perceptual attention over a direct phonotactic view based on structural conformity. However, transfer interacts with prior L2 knowledge, which may result in significantly different perceptual consequences for a familiar and an unfamiliar L2.
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This books gives a sketch of a Grammar of Pomeranian, a West Germanic language spoken in the state Espirito Santo in Brazil. While Pomeranian has died out in Europe, it is still actively spoken in this language island. This reference grammar gives the phonetics, phonology, morphology and syntax of the language against the background of what we know of its European ancestor. It also discusses some ongoing changes due to language contact. (uncorrected version!)
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The development of Standard Austrian German (SAG; de-AT) is closely linked to the development of Standard German German (SGG; de-DE) as spoken in Northern Germany. Traditionally, SAG is strongly geared towards SGG norms. The orientation towards SGG norms goes back to at least 1750, when Maria Theresia ordered the adoption of the Upper Saxonian norms in place at that time (Ebner 1969, Wiesinger 1989). Since then, SAG pronunciation is modelled on SGG and Austrian newsreaders are instructed according to the norms of Duden's (2005) Aussprachewörterbuch and Siebs (1958, with an addendum for Austria) (Wächter-Kollpacher 1995, Soukup & Moosmüller 2011). This procedure leads to an inconsistent usage of SGG features in Austrian broadcasting media (Wiesinger 2009, Soukup & Moosmüller 2011, Hildenbrandt & Moosmüller 2015). Therefore, from a methodological point of view, pronunciation used in the Austrian broadcasting media is unsuitable for defining SAG (Moosmüller 2015).
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Aims and objectives In this study, we investigated crosslinguistic influence in the phonetic systems of simultaneous bilinguals (2L1s) during adulthood. Methodology Specifically, we analyzed the voice onset time (VOT) of the voiceless stop /k/ in the spontaneous speech of 14 German–French bilinguals who grew up in France or Germany. We looked at both languages, first comparing the groups, second comparing their VOT to their global accent. Data and analysis The material consisted of interviews, lasting for about half an hour. Findings/conclusions Most 2L1s showed distinct VOT-ranges in their two languages, even if they were perceived to have a foreign accent in the minority language of their childhood environment. We conclude that the phonetic systems of 2L1s remain separate and stable throughout the lifespan. However, the 2L1s from France had significantly shorter VOTs in German than the 2L1s from Germany, and their speech was overall more accented. These findings are discussed with respect to the role of intra- and extra-linguistic factors. Originality Our study adds a new perspective to existing VOT studies of bilinguals by using naturalistic speech data and by comparing two groups of 2L1s who have the same language combination but grew up in different countries, which allows us to evaluate the impact of their childhood environment on VOT development. Significance/implications Language exposure during childhood seems to be beneficial for pronunciation during adulthood.
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This paper describes the sound system of the Pomeranian language, which is still spoken in some regions of Brazil. This description was based on the phonemics’ method, developed by Pike (1947). In order to do so, four subjects (three bilinguals (Portuguese and Pomeranian) and one monolingual (Pomeranian)) were interviewed and then they were presented to a list of six hundred lexical items, of which we could identify consonant and vowel phones, gather minimal pairs to build the phonemic table of consonants and vowels, observe some phonological processes and, finally, describe the syllabic structure of Pomeranian.
Este trabalho visa a analisar como vem se efetivando a institucionalização do ensino bilíngue (português/alemão) no contexto da rede pública municipal de ensino da cidade de Pomerode, em Santa Catarina a partir da criação de cinco classes bilíngues (português/alemão) ora em funcionamento no município.
This study investigates the phonetics and phonology of voicing distinctions in the Dutch-German dialect continuum, which forms a transition zone between voicing and aspiration systems. Two phonological approaches to represent this contrast exist in the literature: a [±voice] approach and Laryngeal Realism. The implementation of the change between the two language types in the transition zone will provide new insights in the nature of the phonological representation of the contrast. In this paper I will locate the transition zone by looking at phonetic overlap between VOT values of fortis and lenis plosives, and I will compare the two phonological approaches, showing that both face analytical problems as they cannot explain the variation observed in word-initial plosives and plosive clusters.