A Neurophysiological Investigation of Experience-Based Processing of Phoneme Substitutions in L2
Rees Vellinga, M.V.S. van
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Phoneme substitutions, as they typically occur in foreign-accented speech, are the topic of investigation in this study. In particular, th-substitutions by Dutch L2 learners of English are studied to find out whether the frequency with which a particular substitute occurs in Dutch-accented English influences the perception of phoneme substitutions for Dutch L2 listeners. The present study is a follow-up experiment of an eye-tracking study that has shown such experience-based processing of foreign-accented speech for lexical activation. Hanulikova and Weber (in prep.) demonstrated that Dutch and German participants, who differ in their preference for substitutes of the English voiceless [θ], recognised L2 words more easily when they were pronounced with the preferred substitute of the L2 listener. The present study is the first part of a neurophysiological investigation of whether early processing of the preferred substitute [t] over [s] for Dutch listeners can be made visible in a mismatch negativity-paradigm (MMN). The English pseudowords [θond], [tond] and [sond] were presented to the listener; simultaneously, event-related potential (ERP) data were collected. If experience indeed influences the MMN, larger amplitudes are expected for [s] over [t]. On the other hand, if only acoustic similarity influences the MMN, larger amplitudes for [s] over [t] are expected. The analyses revealed significant deviance interaction for the oddball block, with [t] eliciting larger MMN amplitudes and shorter latencies than [s]. Surprisingly, the same results were found for the control block. Results so far favour an acoustic-similarity based account; however, upcoming results from the German listener group may reveal whether acoustic similarity provides the most probable interpretation.