Can you tell by their English if they can speak Welsh? Accent perception in a language contact situation
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Aims: The purpose of this research was to gain a better understanding of accent perception in language contact situations in which monolingual speakers of a contact variety and bilinguals live in the same community. Design: We investigated the English accents of monolinguals and bilinguals from the same area in South-West Wales, and listeners’ perceptions thereof, in three inter-related studies. Data: In Study 1, an accent perception experiment, participants from four different listener groups were asked to differentiate English monolinguals and Welsh-English bilinguals on the basis of short English speech samples. In Study 2, the same participants’ views about differences between the accentual features of monolinguals and bilinguals were examined in individual structured interviews. Finally, in Study 3, the speech samples from the accent perception experiment were analysed phonetically based on the accentual features mentioned in Study 2. Findings: Study 1 revealed that monolinguals and bilinguals can be identified above chance based on their English accent, but performance was unexceptional. Identification was better with greater accent familiarity, but unrelated to listeners’ ability to speak Welsh.Study 2 revealed the specific segmental and suprasegmental features that the listeners considered indicative of monolingual and bilingual speakers’ English accents, while Study 3 showed that only some of the listeners’ views are consistent with the production data from Study 1. Originality: This paper is the first to examine whether monolinguals and bilinguals from a bilingual area with historical language contact can be identified on the basis of their majority language accent, and on what grounds these identifications are made. Implications:This research shows that settings in which minority-language features originate from both historical language contact and individual bilingualism yield subtle accentual differences in the majority language between monolinguals and bilinguals to which even listeners from the same accent background may not be responsive.
International Journal of Bilingualism;
Mayr, R., Roberts, L. and Morris, J. (2019) 'Can you tell by their English if they can speak Welsh? Accent perception in a language contact situation', International Journal of Bilingualism. DOI: 10.1177/1367006919883035.
Article published in International Journal of Bilingualism on 29 October 2019, available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1367006919883035.
Cardiff Metropolitan University (Grant ID: Cardiff Metropolian (Internal))
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