Phonology and Phonetics of L2 Telugu English

Katerina Pisegna, Veno Volenec


The paper provides a partial phonological and phonetic description of the segmental structure of L2 Telugu English (TE). Previous research on the subject has been carried out in the context of a more general notion of Indian English (IE), so the properties of TE as distinct from other varieties of IE (e.g., Gujarati English) have largely remained unexplored. We have primarily focused on areas that previous research identified as prominent issues in the study of IE: vowel inventory and production, representation and realization of liquids, word-final obstruent phenomena, and allophones of /w/. To account for these aspects of TE, we have combined a generative approach to the study of an individual’s linguistic competence with linguistic fieldwork as a means of collecting first-hand data. On the basis of collected data, we have conducted a spectrographic analysis of TE vowels and a distributional analysis of TE consonants. The paper provides the first description of the acoustic spaces of TE vowels. We found that all vowels except [?] and [i] are more central in TE than in General American English. /r/ was realized as either [r] or [?] without a specific pattern, and occasionally as [?] in the intervocalic position. /l/ was realized as [?] in word-final position and as [l] elsewhere. TE displayed word-final obstruent devoicing for all obstruents except for /b/, which was consistently unreleased. /w/ was realized as [?] before front vowels and as [w] elsewhere. While previous research that concentrated on the broad notion of Indian English recognized the issue of /w/-allophony, it has not provided a principle that governs the exact distribution of /w/’s allophones. By combining the generative framework with linguistic fieldwork, we have accounted for this long-standing puzzle with a single rule: /w/ ? [?] / __ [–CONS, –BACK].

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