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Individual phonological attrition in Albanian–English late bilinguals



The purpose of this study was to investigate phonological attrition in 10 native Albanian speakers who acquired Standard Southern British English (SSBE) as a second language (L2) in London, United Kingdom. A contrast was examined which is phonemic in Albanian but allophonic in SSBE, namely the production of light and dark lateral approximants. Impressionistic and acoustic analyses revealed that one late bilingual completely neutralized the phonemic contrast in her native Albanian speech. Furthermore, two other bilinguals neutralized the phonemic contrast between light /l/ and dark /ɫ/ in coda position, and overall there appeared to be a stronger trend for light /l/ to become dark in coda position than for dark /ɫ/ to become light in onset position. The findings are discussed in relation to the Speech Learning Model (Flege, 1995) and indicate that phonological attrition in native speech production is possible in late L2 acquisition, although not inevitable.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr Esther de Leeuw, Department of Linguistics, SLLF, Mile End Road, London E1 4NS, United Kingdom


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*We would like to acknowledge Daniela Müller who advised us with regard to Albanian, as well as the two anonymous reviewers, who helped to improve this manuscript. This research was partly funded by a grant awarded to the first author by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, and we are grateful for this financial support.

The first author dedicates this article to her mother, Mary Christine de Leeuw, for her love, support, and strength.



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Individual phonological attrition in Albanian–English late bilinguals



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