The effects of language dominance in the perception and production of the Galician mid vowel contrasts
2015, Phonetica, Issue 4, Pg. 207–236, Volume 72,
Aims: This study investigates the perception and production of the Galician mid vowel contrasts by 54 early Spanish-Galician bilinguals in the cities of Vigo and Santiago (Galicia, Spain). Empirical data is provided to examine the role of language dominance in the perception and production of Galician mid vowel contrasts in order to determine whether the Galician vowel system is becoming more Spanish-like as a result of extensive contact with Spanish in urban areas. Methods: Perception and production data for each mid vowel contrast were collected in (1) binary forced-choice identification tasks, (2) AX discrimination tasks and (3) a reading-aloud task. Results: Results from binary forced-choice identification and AX discrimination tasks indicate that Spanish-dominant bilinguals have great difficulty in discriminating between these mid vowels while Galician-dominant subjects display a robust categorical identification of the two mid vowel categories. Acoustic analyses of their productions show that Galician-dominant bilinguals implement a Galician-specific /e/-/ɛ/ contrast but Spanish-dominant ones produce a single, merged Spanish-like front mid vowel. However, both language dominance groups seem to maintain a more robust /o/-/ɔ/ contrast. This asymmetry between front and back mid vowels is found in the productions of both language dominance groups. Conclusion: These results show that language dominance is a strong predictor of the production and perception abilities of Spanish-Galician bilinguals, and that only Galician-dominant subjects in these urban areas possess two independent phonetic categories in the front and back mid vowel space.