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Acquisition of Hindi Contrasts by English Speakers: An Optimality Theoretic Account

Author(s): Ashima AGGARWAL

Journal: Acta Linguistica Asiatica
ISSN 2232-3317

Volume: 1;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 9;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: voicing | aspiration | acquisition | optimality theory | voice onset time

This paper provides an optimality theoretic account of perception of Hindi voicing and aspiration contrasts by English monolinguals. The participants were presented with minimal pairs of stop consonants belonging to three places of articulation, namely, bilabial, alveolar and velar. The minimal pairs varied in (a) voice; (b) aspiration; (c) voice and aspiration. The methodology involved taking a discrimination test wherein the English speakers reported whether the minimal pairs they heard were same or different. The findings were then subjected to quantitative analysis. The results show that aspiration distinction is clearly perceived by English monolinguals but voicing contrast is neutralized in the same position. The study adds to our knowledge of existing phonological theories such as Best’s perceptual Assimilation Model (2001) and p-maps (Steriade, 2001). Based on the phonetic results, an optimality theoretic framework is applied to describe the results. The framework involves the ranking of faithfulness and markedness constraints and presenting an initial stage grammar for the L2 English learner of Hindi. In the end, some predictions are made about the further acquisition of these non-native contrasts by L2 English learners. The study has useful implications for adult second language learners.

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