Shared or separate representations? The spanish palatal nasal in early Spanish/English bilinguals

Sara Stefanich*, Jennifer Cabrelli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The purpose of this study is to examine phonetic interactions in early Spanish/English bilinguals to see if they have established a representation for the Spanish palatal nasal /ñ/ (e.g., /kañon/ cañón ‘canyon’) that is separate from the similar, yet acoustically distinct English /n+j/ sequence (e.g., /kænjn/ ‘canyon’). Twenty heritage speakers of Spanish completed a delayed repetition task in each language, in which a set of disyllabic nonce words were produced in a carrier phrase. English critical stimuli contained an intervocalic /n+j/ sequence (e.g., /dEnjα/ ‘denya’) and Spanish critical stimuli contained intervocalic /ñ/ (e.g., /deñja/ ‘deña’). We measured the duration and formant contours of the following vocalic portion as acoustic indices of the /ñ/~/n+j/ distinction. The duration data and formant contour data alike show that early bilinguals distinguish between the Spanish /ñ/ and English /n+j/ in production, indicative of the maintenance of separate representations for these similar sounds and thus a lack of interaction between systems for bilinguals in this scenario. We discuss these discrete representations in comparison to previous evidence of shared and separate representations in this population, examining a set of variables that are potentially responsible for the attested distinction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number50
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Early bilingualism
  • English
  • Heritage bilingualism
  • Phonetics
  • Phonology
  • Spanish
  • Speech production

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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