The role of L2 immersion in the use of pitch among Russian native speakers of British English.

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Proficient bilingual speakers often experience hampered access to their native language after moving to another country. Indeed, attrition research has found evidence of language loss across various speaker groups in different language domains. Although the research has established particular patterns of phonological attrition in early bilingual immigrants, less is known about late bilingual speakers who immigrated in adulthood. The present study investigates the use of pitch among late bilingual speakers in an immigrant setting. It aims to find out if late language learners experience phonological attrition/interference in the use of pitch. Three groups of 9-10 speakers were examined: (1) Russian-English bilinguals, (2) Russian monolinguals, and (3) English monolinguals. The speakers underwent a monologue-like spontaneous speech task, and the collected voice data was analyzed for five pitch parameters: (1) mean pitch, (2) pitch variability, (3) pitch range, (4) pitch maximum, and (5) pitch minimum. The bilingual speakers completed two versions of the task in Russian and English, whereas monolingual speakers performed it in their native language. Besides, the Russian speech of the bilinguals was rated by 13 monolingual Russian speakers for perceived foreign accent. According to the analysis of the listeners’ ratings, there was no relationship between perceived foreign accent and the use of pitch by Russian-English bilingual speakers. The comparisons of the pitch values between the three groups showed that Russian monolinguals used a higher pitch maximum and a wider pitch range than English monolinguals. The results also demonstrated that the bilingual speakers used higher pitch variability, a higher pitch maximum, and a wider pitch range when speaking Russian compared to English. The comparison of the English speech between the bilingual and monolingual English speakers yielded no statistical difference. The bilingual speakers were shown to use lower pitch minimum in their Russian compared to the monolingual Russian group. Lowered pitch minimum in the Russian speech of bilinguals is supposedly caused by interference and transfer from bilinguals’ second language. Key Words: language loss, first language attrition, linguistic interference, mean pitch, pitch variability, pitch range, pitch maximum, pitch minimum.
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