Featural approaches to second language phonetic acquisition posit that the development of new phonetic norms relies on sub-phonemic features, expressed through a constellation of articulatory gestures and their corresponding acoustic cues, which may be shared across multiple phonemes. Within featural approaches, largely supported by research in speech perception, debate remains as to the fundamental scope or “size” of featural units. The current study examines potential featural relationships between voiceless and voiced stop consonants, as expressed through the voice onset time cue. Native English-speaking learners of Spanish received targeted training on Spanish voiceless stop consonant production through a visual feedback paradigm. Analysis focused on the change in voice onset time, for both voiceless (i.e., trained) and voiced (i.e., non-trained) phonemes, across the pretest, posttest, and delayed posttest. The results demonstrated a significant improvement (i.e., reduction) in voice onset time for voiceless stops, which were subject to the training paradigm. In contrast, there was no significant change in the non-trained voiced stop consonants. These results suggest a limited featural relationship, with independent VOT cues for voiceless and voices phonemes. Possible underlying mechanisms that limit feature generalization in L2 phonetic production, including gestural considerations and acoustic similarity, are discussed.


This is the author-accepted version of Olson, D. J. (2022). Phonetic feature size in second language acquisition: Examining VOT in voiceless and voiced stops. Second Language Research, 38(4), 913–940. Copyright Sage, the version of record is available at DOI: 10.1177/02676583211008951. Reuse is restricted to NC-ND.


phonetics, features, visual feedback, voice onset time, Spanish

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