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Phonetic transfer in language contact: Evidence for equivalence classification in the mid-vowels of Occitan-French bilinguals

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-85
Number of pages33
JournalJournal of the International Phonetic Association
Issue number1
Early online date28 Sep 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 13 Jun 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 28 Sep 2017
DatePublished (current) - 1 Apr 2019


This article examines first to second language (L1-to-L2) phonetic transfer in the speech of ten Occitan-French bilinguals, focusing on the mid-vowels in each of their languages. Investigating transfer in a situation of long-term societal language contact aims to shed light on the emergence of regional French phonological features from contact with Occitan. Using a sociophonetic methodology, the concept of equivalence classification (Flege 1988) is investigated, that is, that L2 words will be (initially) decomposed into familiar L2 sound categories, causingL1 and L2 sounds to resemble each other phonetically.The consequences of language contact are modelled statistically using an original corpus of over 1200 vowel tokens. The findings show that equivalence classification may not lead to equated sounds coming to resemble each other phonetically, suggesting necessary revisions to the speech learning model (SLM) hypothesis, and the need to consider the influence of sociolinguistic factors in situations of long-term language contact is emphasised.

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