Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2013

Document Type

Thesis

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

Rebecca Scarborough

Abstract

The acquisition of non-native sounds is a prominent feature of second language acquisition. Mandarin does not permit the voiced plosives /b d g/ or plosives in the syllable coda position, both features of many English words. This disparity presents a potential barrier to native Mandarin speakers’ perception and production of English. Native English speakers use two cues to determine word-final plosive voicing: vowel duration differences and voicing of the closure itself. To assess native Mandarin speakers’ acquisition of English word-final voiced plosives, their perception and production of English cues to plosive voicing were examined through acoustical analyses and a forced-choice identification task. Native Mandarin speakers were not able to reliably produce voiced closures, but did produce significant vowel duration differences. In addition, native Mandarin speakers identified voiced plosives consistently with the voicing of the closure, while native English speakers identified voiced plosives consistently with vowel duration. These findings can be explained with the hypotheses of language transfer and the Speech Learning Model.

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