14thAnnual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association

Lyon, France
August 25-29, 2013

Devoicing of Vowels in German, a Comparison of Japanese and German Speakers

Rei Yasuda, Frank Zimmerer

Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main, Germany

In Tokyo Japanese, vowel devoicing is a common process, that leads to the reduction of high, unstressed vowels ( and ) between unvoiced consonants. This article investigates to what extent native Japanese speakers (L1) learning German as foreign language (L2) show a strong tendency to produce these vowels in the foreign language as devoiced, too. Furthermore, the question is addressed whether German native speakers also devoice vowels in the same context. To this end, a production study of German words with German (L1) and Japanese (L2) native speakers was carried out. Results of this production task show that Japanese speakers devoice vowels in German words quite regularly, whereas German speakers show this pattern only rarely. For the Japanese speakers, the reduction patterns are comparable to those of the native language. Thus, interference of Japanese (L1) patterns can be observed in German (L2) indicating that this process is deeply rooted in Japanese speakersf phonetic/phonological knowledge and leads to interference when learning a foreign language, irrespective of the existence of the process in that language (L2).

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Yasuda, Rei / Zimmerer, Frank (2013): "Devoicing of vowels in German, a comparison of Japanese and German speakers", In INTERSPEECH-2013, 3226-3229.