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Llompart, Miquel and Simonet, Miquel (2018): Unstressed Vowel Reduction Across Majorcan Catalan Dialects: Production and Spoken Word Recognition. In: Language and Speech, Vol. 61, No. 3: pp. 430-465 [PDF, 366kB]


This study investigates the production and auditory lexical processing of words involved in a patterned phonological alternation in two dialects of Catalan spoken on the island of Majorca, Spain. One of these dialects, that of Palma, merges /?/ and /o/ as [o] in unstressed position, and it maintains /u/ as an independent category, [u]. In the dialect of Soller, a small village, speakers merge unstressed /?/, /o/, and /u/ to [u]. First, a production study asks whether the discrete, rule-based descriptions of the vowel alternations provided in the dialectological literature are able to account adequately for these processes: are mergers complete? Results show that mergers are complete with regards to the main acoustic cue to these vowel contrasts, that is, F1. However, minor differences are maintained for F2 and vowel duration. Second, a lexical decision task using cross-modal priming investigates the strength with which words produced in the phonetic form of the neighboring (versus one's own) dialect activate the listeners' lexical representations during spoken word recognition: are words within and across dialects accessed efficiently? The study finds that listeners from one of these dialects, Soller, process their own and the neighboring forms equally efficiently, while listeners from the other one, Palma, process their own forms more efficiently than those of the neighboring dialect. This study has implications for our understanding of the role of lifelong linguistic experience on speech performance.

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