16th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association

Dresden, Germany
September 6-10, 2015

Productions of /h/ in German: French vs. German Speakers

Frank Zimmerer, Jürgen Trouvain

Universität des Saarlandes, Germany

This paper investigates the production of /h/ by French learners of German in comparison to German native speakers. Anecdotally, French speakers are assumed to delete /h/ when speaking German. We investigate the extent to which learners have problems producing /h/ and if advanced learners show different production patterns than beginners. When French speakers produce /h/ our analysis focuses on whether their utterance is comparable to that of native speakers'. The analysis is based on 34 words occurring in a learner corpus with read speech. Our results indicate that complete deletion is quite rare. Beginners sometimes omit /h/ but they predominantly realize it as [ʔ] or other forms of glottalization. Advanced learners are more successful in producing /h/ native-like. Native speakers and most advanced learners realize /h/ as [h] or [ɦ] depending on the voicing status of the left context. Presumably, native(-like) realizations are based on no or a low degree of adduction of the vocal folds whereas beginners apply a high degree of vocal fold adduction, i.e., hyperarticulation. This results in a difference of the duration of the /h/-segments as our measurements show. Our findings may have important implications for language teaching, aiming at the reduction of a foreign accent.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Zimmerer, Frank / Trouvain, Jürgen (2015): "Productions of /h/ in German: French vs. German speakers", In INTERSPEECH-2015, 1922-1926.