Dutch listeners' processing of word-final voicing in English

TitleDutch listeners' processing of word-final voicing in English
Publication TypePresentation
Year of Publication2004
Conference NameWorkshop on First and Second Language Acquisition
AuthorsBroersma, Mirjam
PublisherNederlandse Vereniging voor Fonetische Wetenschappen
Conference LocationNijmegen, The Netherlands

Whereas Dutch has voiced and voiceless obstruents, only voiceless obstruents occur in word-final position. In a series of experiments we investigated Dutch listeners' processing of the voice distinction in word-final position, and its use for the recognition of words in English. In a categorization experiment Dutch and English participants categorized /b/-/p/, /d/-/t/, /z/-/s/, and /v/-/f/, in nonword-initial and -final position. Dutch listeners were found to categorize voiced and voiceless obstruents in word-final position as accurately as in word-initial position, and as accurately as English listeners. To investigate to which extent Dutch listeners use this ability for the recognition of words, English words with an obstruent in word-final position were recorded in two ways: unaltered, and with final voiced consonants replaced with voiceless ones and vice versa. Thus 'globe' became 'glope', and 'cheap' became 'cheab'. The replacement of final consonants did not result in existing words, but in so-called 'near-words'. Real words and near-words were presented to Dutch and English participants in a categorization experiment. Dutch listeners were found to rely more on lexical cues than English listeners: Dutch listeners gave more 'b' responses to the final consonant in 'glope' and more 'p' responses to 'cheab' than English listeners. When the same items were presented in an auditory lexical decision task, Dutch listeners misjudged the near-words as real words more often than English listeners, again relying on the lexicon. To investigate how strongly near-words activate the real word, the same items were used as auditory primes in a bimodal priming experiment, with the real words as visual targets. For English listeners, near-words did not prime real words. For Dutch listeners, 'glope' primed 'globe' as strongly as 'globe' did. 'Cheab', however, did not prime 'cheap'. Thus Dutch listeners were tolerant of incorrect devoicing, but intolerant of incorrect voicing of word-final obstruents.