An acoustic study of voiceless stops in Indian English


  • Jahnavi Narkar University of California, Los Angeles
  • Peter Staroverov


This paper analyzes phonetic corpus data showing that speakers of Indian English produce word-initial and post-/s/ stops that do not differ in terms of voice onset time (VOT). They sys- tematically produce both categories with short positive VOT which is typical of unaspirated stops. By contrast, speakers of British English do distinguish aspirated and unaspirated stops in terms of VOT in the same contexts. These results are based on VOT measurements for word- initial and post-/s/ bilabial and dorsal stops produced by 102 bilingual speakers of one of nine Indic languages and Indian English, and by 28 monolingual British English speakers. Given that Indian English is influenced by Indic languages which have phonological voiceless aspirated stops, this pattern is particularly surprising. We suggest that this cross-language category mismatch might be driven by the phonetic implementation of aspirated stops in Indic languages. More generally, if our results are representative of the stage in which Indian English and British English were in direct contact, they suggest that the existence of a richer laryngeal system in borrowing languages cannot in itself prepare the speakers to perceive and produce borrowed laryngeal contrast more faithfully. Finally, we also measured vowel onset f0 in our corpus, but found no significant differences by context – word-initial and post-/s/ stops were followed by comparable onset f0. These results suggest that intonational context may need to be further controlled for more sensitive f0 analysis.



2023-03-27 — Updated on 2023-03-27