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Book: Romance-Germanic Bilingual Phonology

Chapter: Vowel Reduction in German-Spanish Bilinguals

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.27352


Vowel reduction maximizes the difference between stressed and unstressed syllables. In stress-timed languages, vowels of unstressed syllables are reduced, but not in syllable-timed languages. In this study, we examine the development of unstressed syllables in German (stress-timed) and Spanish (syllable-timed). The empirical data-base consists of the productions of three bilingual German-Spanish children recorded longitudinally, who are then compared to three monolingual German and Spanish children. Vowel quality and duration of unstressed syllables were measured in two- to four-syllable words extracted from the data-base at ages 2;6 through to 3;0 years. Results indicated that bilingual children were mildly disadvantaged in the acquisition of reduced syllables in German as compared to monolingual children, although not in word-final position, and that they produced non-reduced syllables in Spanish in a similar way to their monolingual counterparts. Thus, there was some delay and transfer from the language with simple syllables to the language with complex ones.

Chapter Contributors

  • Margaret Kehoe ( - mkehoe) 'University of Geneva'
  • Conxita LleĆ³ ( - conxita) 'University of Hamburg (Retired)'