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The processing of schwa reduced cognates and noncognates in non-native listeners of English

Mulder, K., Brekelmans, G., & Ernestus, M. (2015). The processing of schwa reduced cognates and noncognates in non-native listeners of English. In Scottish consortium for ICPhS, M. Wolters, J. Livingstone, B. Beattie, R. Smith, M. MacMahon, J. Stuart-Smith, & J. Scobbie (Eds.), Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS 2015). Glasgow: University of Glasgow.
In speech, words are often reduced rather than fully pronounced (e.g., (/ˈsʌmri/ for /ˈsʌməri/, summary). Non-native listeners may have problems in processing these reduced forms, because they have encountered them less often. This paper addresses the question whether this also holds for highly proficient non-natives and for words with similar forms and meanings in the non-natives' mother tongue (i.e., cognates). In an English auditory lexical decision task, natives and highly proficient Dutch non-natives of English listened to cognates and non-cognates that were presented in full or without their post-stress schwa. The data show that highly proficient learners are affected by reduction as much as native speakers. Nevertheless, the two listener groups appear to process reduced forms differently, because non-natives produce more errors on reduced cognates than on non-cognates. While listening to reduced forms, non-natives appear to be hindered by the co-activated lexical representations of cognate forms in their native language.
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