The Production of /p, t, k/ among Heritage Speakers of Spanish in the United States

Main Article Content

Oihane Muxika-Loitzate


The present study explores whether heritage speakers of Spanish in the United States pronounce voiceless stops (/p, t, k/) differently in cognate words and non-cognate words in Spanish and in English depending on their degree of dominance in both languages. The acoustic measurement used to determine whether /p, t, k/ are pronounced differently or not is the Voice Onset Time (or VOT), which is longer for word initial /p, t, k/ in English whereas it is shorter in Spanish (Lisker & Abramson, 1964). This study analyzes the production data of 8 heritage speakers who completed the Bilingual Language Profile (or BLP) Questionnaire (Birdsong et al., 2012), a read-aloud task, and a follow-up interview. The results show that informants pronounce /p, t, k/ differently in English and in Spanish. Moreover, informants’ linguistic dominance influences their production of voiceless stops in English, but not as much in Spanish. A closer look at the data shows that informants’ language proficiency could be influencing their pronunciation of /p, t, k/ in Spanish. Furthermore, this study shows that there is an overall effect of cognate words in the production of voiceless stops in Spanish and English. The current study is of interest because it focuses on heritage speakers’ phonemic inventories, an understudied area of linguistics (Rao & Ronquest, 2015; Kim, 2018) and it combines the BLP Questionnaire and the follow-up interview to retrieve information about heritage speakers’ degree of bilingualism and linguistic attitudes. This methodology allows to explore how sociolinguistic attributes influence heritage speakers’ pronunciation.

Article Details

Research Articles