The perception and production of language-specific mid-vowel contrasts: Shifting the focus to the bilingual individual in early language input conditions
2016, International Journal of Bilingualism, Issue 2, Pg. 133–152, Volume 20,
Aims and Objectives/Purpose/Research Questions:
This study investigates the perception and production of the Catalan mid-vowel contrasts by 60 early Spanish-Catalan bilinguals addressing the following questions: (1) what are the effects of language dominance in the production and perception of the Catalan midvowels? (2) Does the perceptual deficit attributed in Barcelona remain in Majorca? (3) Do these bilinguals maintain the mid-vowel contrasts in production? And (4) what is the relationship between the perception and production of the mid-vowel contrasts within each bilingual individual?
Participants completed categorical AXB discrimination and picture-naming tasks to examine their perception and production of the Catalan mid-vowel contrasts.
Data and Analysis:
The perception data consisted of 8,640 responses and the production dataset comprised 9,585 acoustic measurements that were submitted to mixed-model ANOVAs. Individual variation was explored by calculating the Euclidean distance between the mid-vowel categories for each speaker and exploring correlations with their accuracy rates in the perception task.
The results indicate that mid-vowels are more susceptible to discrimination difficulties than other vowel contrasts. Even though these bilinguals overall maintain robust midvowel contrasts in their productions, a closer examination reveals that the degree of language dominance affects the acoustic distance maintained between the mid-vowel targets. Individuals that produced the mid-vowels with smaller Euclidean distances were more likely to have a higher error rate in the perception task than bilinguals who produced a more robust contrast.
This study examines both mid-vowel contrasts in a variety of Catalan that has been reported to maintain robust mid-vowel contrasts in comparison to the acquisition deficit described in Barcelona, and explores the relationship between the production and perception abilities of each bilingual individual along a continuum of language dominance.
This study contributes with new data to the study of language dominance and the relationship between the production and perception abilities of early and highly proficient bilinguals.