Skip to main content
School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

LingLunch | Alex Martin (Edinburgh)

12 February 2018

Time: 3:00 - 4:00pm
Venue: Bancroft Road Teaching Rooms 3.01

Relating perception and production in contact-induced change

Alex Martin

University of Edinburgh


The Dutch stop inventory contrasts prevoiced from voiceless stops both initially and medially, but not at all places of articulation. Indeed historically, Dutch has lacked the phoneme /ɡ/. Recently, however, many words have been borrowed from neighboring languages, including over 1,300 from English, and this heretofore foreign sound has been creeping its way into the language, to the extent that now even a minimal pair between native /k/ and emerging /ɡ/ exists: /koːl/, cabbage ~ /ɡoːl/, goal. We examined the extent of this change first by exploiting the Corpus Gesproken Nederlands and found a significant correlation between the population density of a region and the proportion of use of the new phoneme there. We then tested 51 native speakers of Dutch from all over the Low Countries and replicated this effect at the level of speakers’ hometowns. We further found a negative correlation between speakers’ VOTs of this new segment and their proportion of use of it in production, indicating a link between individual phonetics and phonology (i.e., speakers with a stronger phonetic contrast between native /k/ and emerging /ɡ/ were more likely to use /ɡ/ in loanwords). We also tested the same speakers on their perception of the new /k/~/ɡ/ contrast compared to native /p/~/b/ and found that speakers who are better at perceiving the new contrast also tend to use it more in production. Overall, our results indicate that the adoption of the new sound is relatively advanced in the young population we tested, but is still modulated by an array of individual-level factors including region of origin and ability to perceive the emerging contrast.  We will discuss potential social and linguistic factors that might contribute to the evolution of this change.