L1 English Perception of /x/ and /xʷ/ in Kwak'wala and hul'q'umi'num'

  • Haruna Ueji University of Victoria
  • Alex Lewis-Chase


With 34 unique languages and 90 different dialects, British Columbia is one of the most linguistically diverse places on earth. With so much diversity in such concentration, there is limited work on languages spoken in near geographical locations. This study investigates the differences between two languages found on Vancouver Island; Kwak'wala and hul'q'umi'num'. Listeners’ perception of Kwak'wala and hul'q'umi'num' plain and labialized /x/ and /xʷ/ was investigated to determine whether English speakers are able to differentiate between the two sounds, as well as determine whether there is a difference between perception across the two languages. Results indicate that /x/ was more accurately perceived both languages. According to word position, in Kwak’wala plain and labialized segments were more accurately perceived in word-initial position, in hul’q’umi’num’ plain and labialized segments were more accurately perceived in word-final position. Analyses between the two languages found that participants perceived Kwak’wala more accurately than hul’q’umi’num’. A practice effect was found across listening quiz trials, where participants more accurately perceive plain and labialized segments on the second trial. These results suggest there may be differences in production between the two languages that affect the perception of English speakers, such as duration and environmental context of the segment.

Key words: labialization; word positioning; perception; velar fricatives; Indigenous languages