The present study examines how Swiss German learners cope with the contrast between voiced and unvoiced obstruents in L2 French. The feature [±voice]) is not exploited in Swiss German dialects, where pairs of obstruents sharing the same place and manner of articulation are basically differentiated in terms of longer or shorter duration (i.e., the feature [±tense]). Therefore, we expect that Swiss German learners of French would assimilate the non-native feature [±voice] to the native [±tense] contrast, due to the great similarity and the functional equivalence of the two features; devoicing is predicted to occur more often in universally preferred positions such as the prepausal context. The corpus consists of 20 sentences (containing 6 voiced obstruents in 6 different phonotactic contexts), which were read by 10 high school students. An acoustic analysis permitted to categorize the 340 tokens into three discrete types: fully voiced, fully unvoiced, partially voiced. Chi-square tests yielded significant effects of the factors "context", "segment" and "speaker" on the variable "voicing". In particular, speakers pronounced 58% of the intervocalic obstruents as fully voiced, whereas they devoiced 85% of the prepausal tokens (thus, revealing both L1-based and universally preferred patterns).
© Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland, 2012