L1 phonetic interference or facilitation in the production of L2 false friends by Dutch-English bilinguals: a task of Voice Onset Time measurement.

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While research on cognates is in abundance, research on interlingual homographs/homophones, also referred to as false friends, exists in a scarcer amount. Previous research on false friends mainly focussed on the recognition of those words. The present study looked at the pronunciation of false friends, by having investigated Voice Onset Time (VOT) of two proficiency groups of Dutch-English bilinguals to see whether the absence of semantic overlap in false friends, as opposed to cognates, has an effect on the pronunciation of the word. In order to answer this question, the VOT of English false friends with either orthographic (O), phonological overlap (P) or both (OP) with the corresponding Dutch words, and control words with phonologically matching onset to the corresponding false friend, were examined. The results showed that the discrepancy in meaning and the presence of merely orthographic and/or phonological overlap does not lead to phonological inhibition from the L1, but to phonological facilitation. False friends were produced with more target-like (longer) VOTs than the control words. It was proposed that this finding is a result of the false friends having been recognised and processed as cognates, which are words that, as proposed by earlier research, cause facilitation. It was also proposed that a large Morphological Family Size of the English false friends caused facilitation in pronunciation. However, these two proposals could not be supported, because previous research that supported these suggestions focussed on recognition, and not on pronunciation. This experiment also found that high proficiency L2ers produced considerably longer VOTs for both word types than lower proficiency L2ers. Furthermore, the results of this research showed there to be no interaction between the overlap type of the false friends and VOT, but a significant interaction between phoneme of onset (/p/, /t/ or /k/) and VOT. Keywords: Voice Onset Time, false friends, interlingual homograph/homophone, semantic discrepancy, proficiency factor, bilingual
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