Assessing Rhotic Production by Bilingual Spanish Speakers

Laura D. Cummings Ruiz, Silvina Montrul

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Due to its articulatory precision, the Spanish rhotic system is generally acquired in late childhood by monolingually-raised (L1) Spanish speakers. Heritage speakers and second language (L2) learners, unlike L1 speakers, risk an incomplete acquisition of the rhotic system due to limited Spanish input and possible phonological interference from English. In order to examine the effects of age of onset of bilingualism and cross-linguistic influence on bilinguals’ rhotic productions, twenty-four adult participants (six sequential bilingual heritage speakers, six simultaneous bilingual heritage speakers, six L1 Spanish speakers, six L2 Spanish learners) were audio recorded in a storytelling task and a picture naming task. The alveolar taps [ɾ] and alveolar trills [r] produced in these tasks were examined according to duration of the rhotic sound and number of apical occlusions. Results showed that the sequential bilinguals, but not the simultaneous bilinguals or the L2 learners, patterned similarly to the L1 Spanish speakers in their production of taps and trills. Neither heritage group produced the English alveolar approximant [ɹ]; the L2 learners, on the other hand, did produce [ɹ] when speaking Spanish. The results of this study suggest that early language input can affect the production of sounds that are acquired in late childhood.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number51
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 3 2020


  • heritage
  • rhotics
  • acoustic analysis
  • Spanish

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