Which Language R You Speaking? /r/ as a Language Marker in Tyrolean and Italian Bilinguals
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Across languages of the world the /r/ sound is known for its variability. This variability has been investigated using articulatory models as well as in sociolinguistic studies. The current study investigates to what extent /r/ is a marker of a bilingual’s dominant language. To this end, a reading task was carried out by bilingual speakers from South Tyrol, who produce /r/ differently according to whether they dominantly speak Tyrolean or Italian. The recorded reading data were subsequently used in a perception experiment to investigate whether South Tyrolean bilingual listeners are able to identify the dominant language of the speaker. Results indicate that listeners use /r/ as a cue to determine the dominant language of the speaker whilst relying on articulatory distinctions between the variants. It is furthermore shown that /r/ correlates with three interdependent variables: the sociolinguistic background of the speakers, their speech production, and how their speech is perceived.
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