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Listeners retune phoneme categories across languages

Reinisch, E., Weber, A., & Mitterer, H. (2013). Listeners retune phoneme categories across languages. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 39, 75-86. doi:10.1037/a0027979.
Native listeners adapt to noncanonically produced speech by retuning phoneme boundaries by means of lexical knowledge. We asked whether a second language lexicon can also guide category retuning and whether perceptual learning transfers from a second language (L2) to the native language (L1). During a Dutch lexical-decision task, German and Dutch listeners were exposed to unusual pronunciation variants in which word-final /f/ or /s/ was replaced by an ambiguous sound. At test, listeners categorized Dutch minimal word pairs ending in sounds along an /f/–/s/ continuum. Dutch L1 and German L2 listeners showed boundary shifts of a similar magnitude. Moreover, following exposure to Dutch-accented English, Dutch listeners also showed comparable effects of category retuning when they heard the same speaker speak her native language (Dutch) during the test. The former result suggests that lexical representations in a second language are specific enough to support lexically guided retuning, and the latter implies that production patterns in a second language are deemed a stable speaker characteristic likely to transfer to the native language; thus retuning of phoneme categories applies across languages.
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