Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 8, No 3 (2014)

Estonian as a heritage language in Sweden: Acoustic and perceptual characteristics of the quantity system

Leelo Keevallik, Pärtel Lippus, Karl Pajusalu
Issued Date: 11 May 2015


This paper studies the Estonian three-way phonological quantity distinction by second-generation Swedish Estonians. Production of the three phonological quantities has been measured in informal interviews with four speakers, all active members of the Estonian exile community. Comparisons with native Estonians show that three of the four Swedish Estonians had retained the length difference between quantity 2 and 3 in all disyllabic word types. All four displayed native-like pitch contours while two were somewhat inconsistent. The same speakers and four additional ones were then tested for perception of the quantities with re-synthesized speech stimuli. For Estonians in Estonia the temporal cue and the pitch cue are effective in combination, while the Swedish Estonian group shows extensive variability. Some speakers only display the effect of the temporal cue, similarly to fluent Estonian L2 speakers. Others have reduced the three-way system to a binary one. In this pilot study we can thus observe either incomplete acquisition in a foreign environment or language attrition in the first Swedish-born generation.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v8i3.13978


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