This study explored effects of simultaneous use of late bilinguals’ languages on their second-language (L2) pronunciation.
We tested (1) if bilinguals effectively inhibit the first language (L1) when simultaneously processing L1 and L2, (2) if bilinguals,
like natives, imitate subphonemic variation, (3) if bilinguals’ imitation operates crosslinguistically, and (4) if imitation
interacts with phonological structure. Sixteen L1-Czech L2-English speakers heard stimuli with two factors manipulated: language
(Czech, English) and Voice Onset Time (VOT) in /p, t, k/ (short, long). They subsequently pronounced English /t/- and /d/-initial
words. Speakers’ VOTs in the Czech-Short-VOT, Czech-Extended-VOT, and English-Reduced-VOT conditions were comparable, but
VOTs were more English-like after exposure to English-Long-VOT, which applied to both /t/ and /d/.
The conclusions are
as follows. (1) Bilinguals’ potentially ineffective L1 inhibition did not affect their L2 production, since exposure to Czech
did not lead to VOT reduction. (2) Imitation is not limited to native speech, since bilinguals increased their VOTs following
exposure to English-Long-VOT. (3) Imitation did not operate cross-linguistically, since bilinguals’ English productions following
Czech-Short-VOT and Czech-Extended-VOT did not differ. Finally, (4) imitation does interact with phonology, since exposure
to English long-VOT /t/ resulted in a reduction in prevoicing of its voiced