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/r/ production in English and Arabic bilingual and monolingual speakers


By: Ghada Khattab

This paper reports an analysis of /r/ production by English-Arabic bilingual children. It addresses the question of whether the bilingual develops one phonological system or two by calling for a refinement of the notion of a system using insights from recent phonetic and sociolinguistic work on variability in speech. The bilingual subjects that were chosen for the study are three Lebanese children aged 5, 7 and 10, all born and raised in Yorkshire, England. Monolingual friends of the same age were chosen as controls, and the parents of all bilingual and monolingual children were also taped to obtain a detailed assessment of the sound patterns available in the subjects’ environment.

The bilinguals were taped in different language sessions with different interlocutors. /r/ was chosen due to the existence of different patterns for its production in English and Arabic that vary according to contextual and dialectal factors. Results show that (i) the bilinguals have developed separate /r/ production patterns for each of their languages that are similar to those of monolinguals, and (ii) the interaction between their two languages is mainly restricted to the bilingual mode and is a sign of their developing sociolinguistic competence.

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