Feature generalization in Dutch–German bilingual and monolingual children’s speech production

Antje Stoehr, Titia Benders, Janet G. van Hell, Paula Fikkert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Dutch and German employ voicing contrasts, but Dutch lacks the ‘voiced’ dorsal plosive /ɡ/. We exploited this accidental phonological gap, measuring the presence of prevoicing and voice onset time durations during speech production to determine (1) whether preliterate bilingual Dutch–German and monolingual Dutch-speaking children aged 3;6–6;0 years generalized voicing to /ɡ/ in Dutch; and (2) whether there was evidence for featural cross-linguistic influence from Dutch to German in bilingual children, testing monolingual German-speaking children as controls. Bilingual and monolingual children’s production of /ɡ/ provided partial evidence for feature generalization: in Dutch, both bilingual and monolingual children either recombined Dutch voicing and place features to produce /ɡ/, suggesting feature generalization, or resorted to producing familiar /k/, suggesting segment-level adaptation within their Dutch phonological system. In German, bilingual children’s production of /ɡ/ was influenced by Dutch although the Dutch phoneme inventory lacks /ɡ/. This suggests that not only segments but also voicing features can exert cross-linguistic influence. Taken together, phonological features appear to play a crucial role in aspects of bilingual and monolingual children’s speech production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-123
Number of pages23
JournalFirst Language
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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