Nonnative and second-language speech perception

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Language experience systematically constrains perception of speech contrasts that deviate phonologically and/or phonetically from those of the listener’s native language. These effects are most dramatic in adults, but begin to emerge in infancy and undergo further development through at least early childhood. The central question addressed here is: How do nonnative speech perception findings bear on phonological and phonetic aspects of second language (L2) perceptual learning? A frequent assumption has been that nonnative speech perception can also account for the relative difficulties that late learners have with specific L2 segments and contrasts. However, evaluation of this assumption must take into account the fact that models of nonnative speech perception such as the Perceptual Assimilation Model (PAM) have focused primarily on <i>naïve </i>listeners, whereas models of L2 speech acquisition such as the Speech Learning Model (SLM) have focused on <i>experienced </i>listeners. This chapter probes the assumption that L2 perceptual learning is determined by nonnative speech perception principles, by considering the commonalities and complementarities between inexperienced listeners and those learning an L2, as viewed from PAM and SLM. Among the issues examined are how language learning may affect perception of phonetic vs. phonological information, how monolingual vs. multiple language experience may impact perception, and what these may imply for attunement of speech perception to changes in the listener’s language environment.


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