Stop voicing perception in the societal and heritage language of Spanish-English bilingual preschoolers: The role of age, input quantity and input diversity

Simona Montanari*, Jeremy Steffman, Robert Mayr

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

This is the first study to examine stop voicing perception in the societal (English) and heritage language (Spanish) of bilingual preschoolers. The study a) compares bilinguals’ English perception patterns to those of monolinguals; b) it examines how child-internal (age) and external variables (input quantity and input diversity) predict English and Spanish perceptual performance; and c) it compares bilinguals’ perception patterns across languages. Perception was assessed through a forced-choice minimal-pair identification task in which children heard synthesized audio stimuli that varied systematically along a /p-b/ and /t-d/ Voice Onset Time (VOT) continuum and were asked to match them with one of two pictures for each contrast. The results of Bayesian mixed-effects logistic regression analyses indicate that the bilinguals’ category boundary for English stops was impacted by their experience with Spanish, with more short-lag VOT tokens being perceived as voiceless consistent with Spanish VOT. Age solely predicted English perceptual skills, whereas input quantity was the only moderator of Spanish perceptual performance. Finally, the bilingual children showed separate stop voicing contrasts in each language, although perceptual performance was already more mature in English by preschool age. Implications for theories of bilingual speech learning and the role of sociolinguistic variables are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101276
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Phonetics
Volume101
Early online date7 Oct 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • speech perception
  • voice onset time
  • bilingualism
  • heritage language
  • preschoolers
  • Spanish
  • English

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