Early sequential bilingual Voice Onset Time production: an acoustic study of word initial stops in Spanish and English

This study analyzed the Voice Onset Time (VOT) production of six early sequential Spanish-English bilinguals. In this study, the VOT values for Spanish and English word-initial stops /b d g/ are compared to monolingual ranges for Spanish and English. All of the subjects had first learned Spanish at home and were not exposed to English until they were three to five years old. The subjects completed a language experience questionnaire in which they reported English as their dominant language. The amount of Spanish (L1) use was also reported. The major aim of this study was to determine whether the bilinguals produce language specific differences for the word-initial stops in their two languages. Language interaction was also considered as a possible outcome in a secondary analysis which considered the effects of two factors: language dominance and language use. x The VOT values were measured and analyzed in order to determine if subjects were able to keep their two languages separate or if language interaction was present in their productions. Statistical analysis was also performed in order to determine whether subjects were more accurate in their dominant language (English) than Spanish, as well as to see if VOT production differed significantly based on varying amounts of L1 use. In general, the results show that the subjects’ performance significantly differed in their Spanish and English VOT production for word-initial stops /b d g/. Closer examination of the individual productions revealed that language interaction was present in both languages. Language dominance was found to be an influential factor in the subjects’ VOT production, with a significantly higher percentage of accurate English productions than Spanish productions. Amount of L1 use was also found to be significant in the Low L1 use group. These subjects produced significantly different VOT values in Spanish than the subjects with moderate and high amounts of Spanish (L1) use. Implications of the findings in this study are intended to contribute to the area of early sequential bilingual phonology with a focus on Spanish and English VOT production. Moreover, this study is an exploration of the causes and effects of language interaction in bilingual VOT production. This study should provide insight into factors other than age that influence bilingual pronunciation, such as language dominance and language use.