Production of the word-final English /t/-/d/ contrast by native speakers of English, Mandarin, and Spanish

Academic Article

Abstract

  • The primary aim of this study was to determine if adults whose native language permits neither voiced nor voiceless stops to occur in word-final position can master the English word-final /t/-/d/ contrast. Native English- speaking listeners identified the voicing feature in word-final stops produced by talkers in five groups: native speakers of English, experienced and inexperienced native Spanish speakers of English, and experienced and inexperienced native Mandarin speakers of English. Contrary to hypothesis, the experienced second language (L2) learners' stops were not identified significantly better than stops produced by the inexperienced L2 learners; and their stops were correctly identified significantly less often than stops produced by the native English speakers. Acoustic analyses revealed that the native English speakers made vowels significantly longer before /d/ than /t/, produced /t/-final words with a higher F1 offset frequency than /d/-final words, produced more closure voicing in /d/ than /t/, and sustained closure longer for /t/ than /d/. The L2 learners produced the same kinds of acoustic differences between /t/ and /d/, but theirs were usually of significantly smaller magnitude. Taken together, the results suggest that only a few of the 40 L2 learners examined in the present study had mastered the English word- final /t/-/d/ contrast. Several possible explanations for this negative finding are presented. Multiple regression analyses revealed that the native English listeners made perceptual use of the small, albeit significant, vowel duration differences produced in minimal pairs by the nonnative speakers. A significantly stronger correlation existed between vowel duration differences and the listeners' identifications of final stops in minimal pairs when the perceptual judgments were obtained in an 'edited' condition (where post- vocalic cues were removed) than in a 'full cue' condition. This suggested that listeners may modify their identification of stops based on the availability of acoustic cues.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Flege JE; Munro MJ; Skelton L
  • Start Page

  • 128
  • End Page

  • 143
  • Volume

  • 92
  • Issue

  • 1