Language dominance and the perception of the Majorcan Catalan/ʎ/-/ʒ/contrast: Asymmetrical phonological representations
2017, International Journal of Bilingualism, Pg. 1367006916688334,
Bilinguals tend to experience “difficulties” with contrasts specific to their nondominant language. This study investigates the discrimination of the /ʎ/-/ʒ/ contrast of Majorcan Catalan by two groups of Catalan–Spanish bilinguals differing in their linguistic experience, Catalan- versus Spanish-dominant.
Participants completed a categorical discrimination task to examine their perception of the following pairwise comparisons, relevant to assessing the perceptibility of the Majorcan Catalan /ʎ/-/ʒ/ contrast: [ʎ]-[ʒ], [ʎ]-[j], and [ʒ]-[j].
Data consisted of arcsine-transformed proportion-correct responses obtained by means of a categorical discrimination task using the odd-item-out AXB paradigm.
The results indicate that Spanish-dominant bilinguals are less accurate than Catalan-dominant ones in terms of their discrimination of the sounds involved in the /ʎ/-/ʒ/ contrast. Catalan-dominant participants discriminate any pairs involving [ʒ] very accurately. Interestingly, however, all participants find the [ʎ]-[j] pair difficult to discriminate.
This study examines perception of a contrast not examined before, and its results suggest a surprising pattern of asymmetry in phonological representations of the target contrast.
The results suggest that language dominance in the Catalan–Spanish contact community modulates discrimination of the /ʎ/-/ʒ/ contrast. The findings also suggest that Catalan-dominant listeners’ representation of /ʎ/ and /ʒ/ may be asymmetrical: The representation of /ʎ/ may be fuzzier than that of /ʒ/.