Acquisition of the Feature [+Voice] in Word-Final Position by Native Speakers of Russian

Ala Simonchyk



The current study is a pilot investigation that set out to observe the acquisition of voicing contrasts word-finally by late learners of English who were native speakers of Russian. English obstruents preserve the feature [+voice] word-finally, whereas Russian loses it due to the phonological rule of word-final devoicing. The study sought to answer whether advanced Russian learners of English could acquire the feature [+voice] word-finally and if they did, what acoustic cues they used to encode voicing. The participants of the study were four advanced Russian learners of English and four American native speakers of English who served as a comparison group. None of the American speakers had any prior knowledge of a neutralizing language. The participants performed a picture-naming task. Minimal pairs were excluded to avoid the effect of hyperarticulation. The results of the study suggested that advanced Russian learners of English were able to acquire the feature [+voice] word-finally if English had become their dominant language in everyday life. However, unlike the American participants, the Russian learners of English did not manipulate vowel durations with respect to the voicing status of the following consonants. Instead, the Russian learners used durations of closure and voicing into closure to encode voicing. The current study contributes to the understanding of the acquisition of marked phonological processes, as well as the effect of extralinguistic factors on phonological competence.


neutralization; word-final devoicing; markedness; voicing cues; Russian; acquisition of [+voice]

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