Standard German vowel productions by monolingual and trilingual speakers

Heike Schoormann, W.J. Heeringa, Jörg Peters

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Aims and Objectives:
Studies on vowel productions of speakers from bilingual communities report L1-L2 interactions but also monolingual-like realizations. The present study expands a prior acoustic investigation of Saterland trilinguals by studying the substrate effect of Saterland Frisian (SF) and Low German (LG) on the trilinguals’ standard language Northern Standard German (NSG). The research aim is to test whether the NSG vowel productions of the Saterland trilinguals approach the productions of monolingual speakers in terms of durational and spectral features.

Design:
We elicited three repetitions per speaker of the complete inventory of stressed NSG monophthongs in /hVt/ context to compare the realizations of NSG vowels in trilingual speakers from the Saterland and in monolingual speakers from Hanover, whose variety of NSG is representative of the larger speech community.

Data and analysis:
In an acoustic analysis, we compared the durational and spectral features using linear mixed effects models. The findings are interpreted with reference to the cross-linguistic vowel productions of the trilingual speakers.

Findings:
For the larger part, the NSG vowel productions of the trilinguals approach the productions of the monolingual speakers in terms of both durational and spectral features. In addition, the vowel productions of the trilingual speakers suggest a bidirectional interaction between the vowel systems of the trilinguals’ three languages.

Originality:
This investigation is the first to study phonetic interference in vowel production in a situation of long-term language contact involving regional trilingualism and an endangered minority language.

Implications:
Our findings show an orientation towards the larger speech community in the realization of vowel categories in the trilinguals’ standard language. Our study also suggests that the complete inventory needs to be studied to understand the functional constraints by which the multilingual vowel space is organized. It further suggests that a comparison with monolingual speakers is necessary to draw conclusions on the mutual subphonemic influence of the individual vowel systems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 138-156
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Volume23
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jun 2017

Keywords

  • vowel production
  • trilingualism
  • language contact

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