PSC for Doctoral Dissertation Research: The influence of local social context on speech perception in bilinguals

Project: Research project

Project Details


Our project investigates how the assumptions that bilinguals make about what language(s) an interlocutor will speak are shaped by the linguistic ideologies they hold. Daily life requires communicating with a variety of interlocutors. For bilinguals, each switch in interlocutor entails a decision about what language(s) they expect. Seminal theories of bilingual language control postulate that this decision is influenced by the social context in which the interaction occurs (e.g. Grosjean, 2001; Green and Abutalebi, 2013) but do not determine which aspects of context are relevant. Linguistic ideologies are central to how researchers conceptualize the influence of social information on language (e.g. Kroskrity, 2004); they are known to shape language use (e.g. Eckert, 2008) and perception (e.g. Strand, 1999) in monolinguals. To better understand how social context influences speech perception and control in bilinguals, therefore, we must consider what and how linguistic ideologies are incorporated into these processes. While prior work (Li, Yang, Scherf, and Li, 2013) suggests that linguistic ideologies guide speech perception processes in bilinguals, this has not been explicitly studied. In this work, therefore, we take up the question of how ideologies--particularly those related to an interlocutor’s perceived social identity--influence language selection and control in bilinguals. We will engage members of the Mexican American, Spanish-English bilingual community in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood to investigate what linguistic ideologies they hold, how those relate to patterns of language use at the community and individual levels, and whether they play a role in speech perception. To address these questions, we will collect data using: (1) interviews to identify what self-reported linguistic ideologies participants hold about their languages and who speaks them; (2) a questionnaire to gather information about participants’ language background, experience, and patterns of use; and (3) a socially-primed phoneme categorization task testing the influence of participants’ linguistic ideologies on speech perception. We will look specifically for perceptions of a speaker’s race, ethnicity, generation within the US, and socioeconomic status given prior work suggesting the salience of these features to Mexican American, Spanish-English bilinguals (e.g. Galindo, 1995; Bedolla, 2003; Rosa, 2016).
Effective start/end date3/1/232/28/25


  • National Science Foundation (BCS-2234845)


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