Language dominance and the perception of the Majorcan Catalan /ʎ/−/ʒ/ contrast: Asymmetrical phonological representations

Marta Ramírez, Miguel - Simonet

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: Bilinguals tend to experience “difficulties” with contrasts specific to their nondominant language. This study investigates the discrimination of the /ʎ/-/ʒ/ contrast of Majorcan Catalan by two groups of Catalan–Spanish bilinguals differing in their linguistic experience, Catalan- versus Spanish-dominant. Methodology: Participants completed a categorical discrimination task to examine their perception of the following pairwise comparisons, relevant to assessing the perceptibility of the Majorcan Catalan /ʎ/-/ʒ/ contrast: [ʎ]-[ʒ], [ʎ]-[j], and [ʒ]-[j]. Data: Data consisted of arcsine-transformed proportion-correct responses obtained by means of a categorical discrimination task using the odd-item-out AXB paradigm. Findings: The results indicate that Spanish-dominant bilinguals are less accurate than Catalan-dominant ones in terms of their discrimination of the sounds involved in the /ʎ/-/ʒ/ contrast. Catalan-dominant participants discriminate any pairs involving [ʒ] very accurately. Interestingly, however, all participants find the [ʎ]-[j] pair difficult to discriminate. Originality: This study examines perception of a contrast not examined before, and its results suggest a surprising pattern of asymmetry in phonological representations of the target contrast. Significance: The results suggest that language dominance in the Catalan–Spanish contact community modulates discrimination of the /ʎ/-/ʒ/ contrast. The findings also suggest that Catalan-dominant listeners’ representation of /ʎ/ and /ʒ/ may be asymmetrical: The representation of /ʎ/ may be fuzzier than that of /ʒ/.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)638-652
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018


  • bilingual language dominance
  • Catalan
  • palatal consonants
  • Perception
  • phonological representation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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