Imitation of a VOT continuum by native speakers of English and Spanish: Evidence for phonetic category formation

Academic Article


  • This study examined imitation of a voice onset time (VOT) continuum ranging from /da/ to /ta/ by subjects differing in age and/or linguistic experience. The subjects did not reproduce the incremental increases in VOT linearly, but instead showed abrupt shifts in VOT between two or three VOT response “modes.” The location of the response shifts occurred at the same location as phoneme boundaries obtained in a previous identification experiment. This supports the view that the stimuli were categorized before being imitated. Children and adults who spoke just Spanish generally produced only lead and short-lag VOT responses. English monolinguals tended to produce stops with only short-lag and long-lag VOT values. The native Spanish adults and children who spoke English, on the other hand, produced stops with VOT values falling into all three modal VOT ranges. This was interpreted to mean that they had established a phonetic category {th} with which to implement the voiceless aspirated realizations of /t/ in English. Their inability to produce English /p,t,k/ with the same values as native speakers of English must therefore be attributed to the information specified in their new English phonetic categories (which might be incorrect as the result of exposure to Spanish-accented English), to partially formed phonetic realization rules, or both. © 1988, Acoustical Society of America. All rights reserved.
  • Authors

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Flege JE; Eefting W
  • Start Page

  • 729
  • End Page

  • 740
  • Volume

  • 83
  • Issue

  • 2