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Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Ettien Koffi

Second Advisor

Edward Sadrai

Third Advisor

Monica Devers

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

acoustic phonetics, double coda devoicing, Serbo-Croatian, BCMS


Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, and Serbian (BCMS) belong to Western South Slavic languages, which make up what was formerly known as Serbo-Croatian. According to Surdučki (1964, p. 177), BCMS has a phonotactic constraint whereby the consonants that occur in a complex coda must agree in voicing. Because devoicing of the final consonant in the double coda is a common phonological process across languages, a word such as /bægz/ is frequently produced as /bægs/. However, due to the BCMS voicing harmony, the devoicing of the final consonant within the coda calls for regressive assimilation in BCMS English. This results into BCMS speakers pronouncing /bægz/ as [bæks]. To test this hypothesis, I examine seven words containing voiced double codas produced by twenty BCMS speakers of English, comparing them to the control group consisting of five native English speakers. The text that serves as the basis for this analysis is found at The George Mason University (GMU) Speech Archive website. I also take into account GMU’s impressionistic transcriptions of the coda clusters in question. The BCMS speakers showed a tendency to substitute /dz/ and /gz/ with [ts] and [ks], respectively. The remaining clusters, including bilabial stops, alveolar nasals, and velar nasals, were less frequently devoiced. Intelligibility is mostly impaired in the case of /dz/, as the Relative Functional Load (RFL) of /d/ and /t/ is 72%. Additionally, competition which is created between lexical neighbors such as /kɪdz/ vs. /kɪts/, /bægz/ vs. /bæks/, /slæbz/ vs. /slæps/, and /θɪŋz/ vs. /θɪnks/ may interfere with intelligibility. This study informs ESL/EFL (English as a Second/Foreign Language) instructors on BCMS double coda devoicing, which can assist them in effectively teaching pronunciation to these speakers of English.


First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to my mentor and advisor, Dr. Ettien Koffi, for being a constant source of knowledge, inspiration, and encouragement throughout this research. Not only did he introduce me to this area of research and offer academic advice, he also provided moral and parental support throughout my Master’s program. I am tremendously thankful for his faith in me, the chance to work with him as a Teaching Assistant, and countless conversations from which I learned more than I can put in words. Additionally, I am indebted to the remainder of my committee: Dr. Edward Sadrai and Dr. Monica Devers, whose insightful comments helped me improve my research. I am also endlessly appreciative of my partner Andy and my friend Ivana, not only for proof-reading and suggestions, but also for their never-ending support and guidance over the past few years. Further, I thank all my friends for being patient, supportive, and understanding as I worked on my project. Finally, I would like to express my deepest appreciation for my parents and sisters for being a continual source of moral support. Their pride and faith in me motivated me to do my best and to focus on my goals.