Phonetic consequences of dynamic cross-linguistic interference in proficient bilinguals

Phonetic consequences of dynamic cross-linguistic interference in proficient bilinguals

Simonet, Miquel, 2014, Journal of Phonetics, Pg. 26–37, Volume 43


This study investigates the production and perception of a Catalan-specific vowel contrast by a group of highly proficient, early-onset Catalan–Spanish bilinguals. Spanish has a mid-back vowel (/o/), while Catalan has two (/o/, ɔ /ɔ/). Most importantly, the study manipulates the amount of activation of the Spanish lexicon in two experimental sessions to examine the transient aspects of cross-linguistic phonetic interference. In the first (unilingual) session speakers produce words in one of their languages only, Catalan. In the second (bilingual) session bilinguals produce words in both of their languages, in random order. The acoustic analysis consists of comparing the height of Catalan [o] and [ ɔ ɔ] in the two sessions, as well as verifying whether bilinguals possess separate categories for these two vowels in the first place. The results show that the presence (vs. absence) of Spanish words in the task affects the realization of the two Catalan mid-back vowels by bilinguals. In particular, the two Catalan vowels become slightly more similar to Spanish [o] when they are pronounced alongside this vowel.


– Catalan–Spanish bilinguals produced words manifesting the Catalan /o/–/ɔ/ contrast.
– Target words, produced in two sessions: Catalan-only and Catalan–Spanish, bilingual.
– Presence of Spanish in session alters acoustics of Catalan /o/ and /ɔ/ vowels.
– All subjects produce the contrast but the magnitude of difference depends on dominance.
– Dominance patterns also affect perceptual discrimination of Catalan contrast

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