Bidirectionality of language contact: Spanish and Catalan vowels

Annie Helms


The disproportionate number of studies in Barcelona and the Balearic Islands observing Spanish contact effects in Catalan production, rather than Catalan contact effects in Spanish production, is an oversight of bidirectionality and the probabilistic nature of social factors in situations of language contact. Accordingly, the present study analyzes both Catalan and Spanish mid front vowel production data from Barcelona to investigate whether Catalan contact effects occur in Spanish via a process of dissimilation, and whether such effects are strengthened in younger speakers due to the relatively recent implementation of Catalan linguistic policy in the educational and public spheres. The results are suggestive of dissimilation, where phonetic distinctions are maintained between Spanish /e/ and the two Catalan mid front vowels across both F1 and F2. Additionally, analyses of variance across F1 and F2 reveal that Spanish /e/ productions across F1 are more diffuse in younger speakers and Catalan mid front vowels across F2 are less diffuse, providing evidence of reciprocity in contact effects. These results underscore the bidirectional nature of language contact and advocate for the use of variance of F1 and F2 as a metric of phonological contact effects.


language contact; Spanish; Catalan; vowels; phonetic variation; bilingualism

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