Foreign-language phonetic development leads to first-language phonetic drift: Plosive consonants in native portuguese speakers learning english as a foreign language in Brazil

Denise M. Osborne, Miquel Simonet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Fifty-six Portuguese speakers born and raised in Brazil produced Portuguese words beginning in one of four plosives, /p b k g/. Twenty-eight of them were monolinguals (controls), and the rest were learners of English as a foreign language (EFL). The learners were also asked to produce English words beginning with one of four plosives, /p b k g/. We measured the plosives’ voice onset times (VOT) to address the following research questions: Do foreign-language learners, whose exposure to native English oral input is necessarily limited, form new sound categories specific to their additional language? Does engaging in the learning of a foreign language affect the phonetics of one’s native language? The EFL learners were found to differ from the controls in their production of Portuguese voiced (but not voiceless) plosives—prevoicing was longer in learner speech. The learners displayed different VOT targets for voiced (but not voiceless) consonants as a function of the language they were speaking—prevoicing was longer in Portuguese. In EFL learners’ productions, English sounds appear to be fundamentally modeled on phonologically similar native sounds, but some phonetic development (or reorganization) is found. Phonetic development induced by foreign-language learning may lead to a minor reconfiguration of the phonetics of native language sounds. EFL learners may find it challenging to learn the pronunciation patterns of English, likely due to the reduced access to native oral input.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112
JournalLanguages
Volume6
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2021

Keywords

  • English
  • Phonetics
  • Portuguese
  • Second language acquisition
  • VOT

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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