I saw this sign outside a storefront in San Francisco’s recently-renovated Ferry Building this past Sunday, and it got me to thinking about the English-as-a-second-language speech of my (Bolivian) Spanish-speaking family, some of whom I was visiting at the time.
I’ve only been casually observing so far, but it appears that English flapping (/t,d/ → [ɾ]) is reanalyzed as Spanish spirantization (/d/ → [ð]), such that both lettuce and let us are pronounced [ˈleðas], both latter and ladder are pronounced [laðeɹ], etc. (What I’m transcribing as [eɹ] seems to vary along a continuum between [eɹ] and [ɚ], an independently interesting but otherwise not-so-relevant point at present.)
Both English flapping and Spanish spirantization are (arguably, at least) examples of lenition, and the distributions of the lenited allophones overlap significantly: English [ɾ] occurs between two syllabic elements the first of which is stressed, and Spanish [ð] occurs after vowels and nonhomorganic consonants.
Two interesting things I’ve noticed. (Maybe others have before me; if so, my apologies — I don’t read much of the L2 phonology literature, even though there’s plenty on Spanish and English.)
First, [ɾ] is an independent phoneme in Spanish and is totally at home in the environment of English flapping. For nonalternating items like lettuce, at least, it seems to me that [ˈleɾas] would be the best adaptation, but it’s not in my family’s speech. (Apparently it is in the L2 English speech of other Spanish speakers — I recently read a cartoon by the great Argentinian cartoonist/artist/humorist Quino in which Shut up! was written SHÁRÁP!)
(I’ll try to scan in the cartoon in my future copious free time.)
Second, the reanalysis of flapping as spirantization is sensitive to the other allophonic variants of /t/. As all students of phonology know, there is a distinction between sought Ed (flapping) and saw Ted (no flapping, aspiration instead). There appears to be the same distinction in my family’s L2 speech: spirantization in the first case (sought Ed = [ˌsoˈðeð]) but not in the second (saw Ted = [ˌsoˈteð]).
With /d/, spirantization applies across the board just as it usually does in Spanish. Even though there’s a distinction in English between crusade or (flapping) and say door (no flapping), there isn’t in my family’s L2 speech: both end in [ˌsejˈðoɹ].
As I said above, this is all casual observation so far. But pretty interesting.