Language dominance does not always predict cross-linguistic interactions in bilingual speech production
The present study describes the results of two experiments that analyze the effects of language dominance on Catalan/Spanish bilingual speech production. We examined the acoustics of the Catalan [a]~[ə] alternation (a phonological process induced by lexical stress) and of the Catalan mid vowel contrasts /e/-/ɛ/ and /o/-/ɔ/ (two phonemic contrasts) in the speech of Catalan- vs. Spanish-dominant early Catalan/Spanish bilinguals from Majorca (Spain). The results indicate that, contrary to the analysis of the Catalan mid vowels, stressed and unstressed Spanish and Catalan /a/ yielded no significant difference as a function of language dominance. These findings suggest that unstressed vowel reduction, a phonological process, may be relatively easier to acquire than phonemic contrasts with a low functional load (/e/-/ɛ/, /o/-/ɔ/), perhaps because its predictability and high frequency may attract attention and/or relieve cognitive resources, which could be conducive to phonological learning. These findings demonstrate that language dominance effects in the production of phonemic contrasts, widely researched in the literature on early bilingualism, do not guarantee the same effects on the implementation of phonological processes.
Keywords: unstressed vowel reduction, phonological processes, phonemic contrasts, language dominance, bilingual speech production
Published online: 16 July 2019
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