The influence of raciolinguistic expectations on phoneme categorization in Spanish–English bilinguals

Jennifer Dibbern*, Annette D’Onofrio

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aims and objectives: This study examines how social information is utilized in processes of bilingual speech perception. Specifically, we investigate whether racialized expectations of native language background trigger language-specific processing strategies in early or simultaneous Spanish–English bilinguals. Methodology: We coupled a visually-primed phoneme categorization task with a social evaluation questionnaire to test whether Spanish–English bilingual adults living in the United States (n = 30) drew on racialized ideologies about what speakers of certain languages look like during speech perception. We predicted that, if participants drew on these ideologies during the phoneme categorization task, they would cue an expectation of what language was being spoken and, consequently, a shift in the identification boundary. Data and analysis: Mixed logistic regression was used to investigate the effects of photograph (the visual prime) and voice on how participants categorized the continua while paired, two-tailed t-tests were used to compare how participants socially evaluated the two speakers. Findings: Raciolinguistic evaluations appeared to influence bilingual speech perception, significantly affecting how the continua were categorized, but they did not work the same way for every voice. Originality: Prior work has posited that interactional context influences bilingual language control (e.g., Grosjean, 2001); the ideological nature of this context has, however, been understudied. This paper offers insight into how ideologies related to race may shape language perception and use in bilinguals. Implications: The findings provide evidence for the role of social information in bilingual speech perception, suggest that multiple cues (acoustic and social) integrate to determine the interactional context, and indicate that the influence of raciolinguistic ideologies is neither straightforward nor homogeneous but rather contingent on complex aspects of the perceived speaker.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)440-453
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingualism
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2024


  • Bilingualism
  • interactional context
  • language processing
  • phoneme categorization
  • raciolinguistic expectations
  • speech perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'The influence of raciolinguistic expectations on phoneme categorization in Spanish–English bilinguals'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this