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First language attrition in the speech of Dutch–English bilinguals: The case of monozygotic twin sisters*



Recent years have seen a proliferation of research on attrition in L1 speech (de Leeuw, Mennen & Scobbie, in press; de Leeuw, Schmid & Mennen, 2010; Dmitrieva, Jongman & Sereno, 2010; Mennen, 2004). Adding to this line of inquiry, the present study investigates the speech of a 62-year-old bilingual monozygotic twin who emigrated to an L2-speaking environment 30 years ago. Changes in L1 accent were assessed by comparing her speech to that of her identical twin sister who remained in the L1-speaking environment, thus providing a unique control setting. Acoustic analyses of voice onset time and vowels indicate pervasive changes to the emigrated twin's L1 accent, with attrition presenting in the form of cross-linguistic assimilation patterns. Interestingly, her L1 vowel space exhibited a systematic increase in first formant frequency, confirming claims that L1 and L2 sounds may be related to each other at a system-wide level (Chang, 2010, 2011; Guion, 2003). Implications for theoretical models of bilingual sound systems are discussed.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Robert Mayr, Centre for Speech and Language Therapy, Cardiff Metropolitan University, Llandaff Campus, Cardiff CF5 2YB, South Wales,


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The authors wish to thank MZ and TZ for their participation in the study. Thanks also go to Monika Schmid, two anonymous reviewers as well as the audience at the 8th International Symposium on Bilingualism (ISB8, University of Oslo, Norway, June 15–18 2011) for valuable feedback on the research presented in this paper.



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First language attrition in the speech of Dutch–English bilinguals: The case of monozygotic twin sisters*



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