Heritage language exposure impacts voice onset time of Dutch-German simultaneous bilingual preschoolers

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This study assesses the effects of age and language exposure on VOT production in 29 simultaneous bilingual children aged 3;7 to 5;11 who speak German as a heritage language in the Netherlands. Dutch and German have a binary voicing contrast, but the contrast is implemented with different VOT values in the two languages. The results suggest that bilingual children produce 'voiced' plosives similarly in their two languages, and these productions are not monolingual-like in either language. Bidirectional cross-linguistic influence between Dutch and German can explain these results. Yet, the bilinguals seemingly have two autonomous categories for Dutch and German 'voiceless' plosives. In German, the bilinguals' aspiration is not monolingual-like, but bilinguals with more heritage language exposure produce more target-like aspiration. Importantly, the amount of exposure to German has no effect on the majority language's 'voiceless' category. This implies that more heritage language exposure is associated with more language-specific voicing systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)598-617
Number of pages20
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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