Language Specificity in Phonetic Cue Weighting: Monolingual and Bilingual Perception of the Stop Voicing Contrast in English and Spanish

Jessamyn Schertz, Kathy Carbonell, Andrew J. Lotto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Background/Aims: This work examines the perception of the stop voicing contrast in Spanish and English along four acoustic dimensions, comparing monolingual and bilingual listeners. Our primary goals are to test the extent to which cue-weighting strategies are language-specific in monolinguals, and whether this language specificity extends to bilingual listeners. Methods: Participants categorized sounds varying in voice onset time (VOT, the primary cue to the contrast) and three secondary cues: fundamental frequency at vowel onset, first formant (F1) onset frequency, and stop closure duration. Listeners heard acoustically identical target stimuli, within language-specific carrier phrases, in English and Spanish modes. Results: While all listener groups used all cues, monolingual English listeners relied more on F1, and less on closure duration, than monolingual Spanish listeners, indicating language specificity in cue use. Early bilingual listeners used the three secondary cues similarly in English and Spanish, despite showing language-specific VOT boundaries. Conclusion: While our findings reinforce previous work demonstrating language-specific phonetic representations in bilinguals in terms of VOT boundary, they suggest that this specificity may not extend straightforwardly to cue-weighting strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Linguistics and Language

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