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Tolerance for inconsistency in foreign-accented speech

Witteman, M. J., Weber, A., & McQueen, J. M. (2014). Tolerance for inconsistency in foreign-accented speech. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 21, 512-519. doi:10.3758/s13423-013-0519-8.
Are listeners able to adapt to a foreign-accented speaker who has, as is often the case, an inconsistent accent? Two groups of native Dutch listeners participated in a cross-modal priming experiment, either in a consistent-accent condition (German-accented items only) or in an inconsistent-accent condition (German-accented and nativelike pronunciations intermixed). The experimental words were identical for both groups (words with vowel substitutions characteristic of German-accented speech); additional contextual words differed in accentedness (German-accented or nativelike words). All items were spoken by the same speaker: a German native who could produce the accented forms but could also pass for a Dutch native speaker. Listeners in the consistent-accent group were able to adapt quickly to the speaker (i.e., showed facilitatory priming for words with vocalic substitutions). Listeners in the inconsistent-accent condition showed adaptation to words with vocalic substitutions only in the second half of the experiment. These results indicate that adaptation to foreign-accented speech is rapid. Accent inconsistency slows listeners down initially, but a short period of additional exposure is enough for them to adapt to the speaker. Listeners can therefore tolerate inconsistency in foreign-accented speech.
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