Language skills in bilinguals have almost always been appraised in terms of monolingual standards, and research is in large part conducted in terms of the bilingual’s individual and separate languages. This is due to the belief that the bilingual has (or should have) two separate and isolable language competencies, and that in each system the bilingual is comparable to a monolingual in that language (Grosjean, 1992). Although normative data from both languages are important, for a truly reliable assessment, data on normal development of the bilingual who may have a unique and specific linguistic configuration is needed. This pilot study examines the development of VOT patterns in Spanish-English bilingual children. Spanish and English differ in their VOT values for stop consonants. English voiceless stops /p, t, k/ at the beginning of a stressed syllable have long lag VOT (aspirated), whereas Spanish voiceless stops have coincident and short lag VOT (unaspirated). The reason for choosing to study VOT patterns is due to the fact that global foreign accent is significantly correlated with VOT production in stop consonants by non-native speakers (Flege, 1992). The question dealt with here is whether participants produce the stops in an authentic manner in the two languages involved or deviate from this by showing “compromise” values of VOT. To date, studies on bilinguals have provided an ambiguous set of findings. Some studies have shown evidence that bilinguals use a single set of compromised phonetic representations in both languages (Caramazza et al., 1973; Flege & Eefting, 1987; Hazan & Boukalia, 1993; Obler, 1982; Raphael et al., 1995; Schmidt & Flege, 1996; Williams, 1977), whereas others have shown evidence of separate representations for each language (Flege, 1991; Mack, 1989; Schmidt & Flege, 1996). The question asked here is an important one, as it pertains to a rather controversial area. If the measurements obtained from the bilinguals do not match those of monolinguals
in the two respective languages, it may be argued that intervention is justified simply because this is similar to the situation in second/foreign language learning where remediation is not controversial. Another issue related to this is that if there is the influence of one language over the other, which language is influencing the production of the other language?