Open Access
Yuro, Jaclyn A
Area of Honors:
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • Janet van Hell , Thesis Supervisor
  • Jeff M Love, Honors Advisor
  • psychology
  • linguistics
  • language learning
  • developmental
  • VOT
Around the world, millions of students are learning a foreign language in their school classrooms every day. In an increasingly globalized world, it is deemed important that children gain knowledge of a second language (L2) and can communicate effectively with native speakers. It is therefore necessary that we know more about the process of L2 learning in the classroom, including the learning of L2 phonology. This study targets the research question, “How does the L2 mental lexicon of L2 learners develop and interact with first language (L1) lexical knowledge?” This question is particularly relevant in child L2 learners who concurrently develop their L1 lexical knowledge, which may lead to unique patterns of interaction. This study specifically focuses on patterns of interaction between L1 and L2 phonetic systems during speech production in child classroom L2 learners, and analyzes VOTs in cognates and noncognates. Parallel research testing adult bilinguals observed contrasting patterns. In line with the exemplar-based speech production model, Amengual (2012) found phonetic co-activation in cognate production resulting in an average of VOTs in L1 (Spanish) and L2 (English) in adult proficient Spanish-English bilinguals. In contrast, Jacobs, Fricke, and Kroll (2015) found that intermediate and high proficiency English-Spanish bilinguals produced Spanish cognates with longer (and more English-like) VOTs, and proposed that bilinguals are unable to inhibit the L1 during L2 speech production. To test patterns of interaction between L1 and L2 phonetic systems in child L2 learners, we used VOTs to examine the production of cognate and noncognate pictures and words in 41 Dutch child classroom learners of L2 English, all 6th graders who had received English language instruction since Kindergarten, for 2-3 hours per week. Critical points for VOT analysis are 1) words beginning with /b/ and /d/ as these are voiced plosives in Dutch and show pre-voicing, while in English they present with a short lag, and 2) words beginning with /p/ and /t/ as they are voiceless plosives in Dutch and present with a short lag, while these are comparatively aspirated in English and show a longer positive VOT. Twenty-seven participants have been analyzed for VOT and these results show a clear influence of the L1 VOT on L2 production. However, a significant difference was found between voiceless cognates in English and Dutch, as well as noncognates, showing unique patterns of interaction. This pattern of findings most closely aligns with the results of Jacobs, Fricke, and Kroll (2015) which describes an inability to inhibit the L1 in L2 production. Although, the voiceless L2 production results trended toward being more L2-like, creating a unique pattern of phonetic interaction in child L2 English learners that differs from what has been found with adult L2 English learners.