Weber, A. (2008). What the eyes can tell us about spoken-language comprehension [Abstract]. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America,124, 2474-2474.
Lexical recognition is typically slower in L2 than in L1. Part of the difficulty comes from a not precise enough processing of L2 phonemes. Consequently, L2 listeners fail to eliminate candidate words that L1 listeners can exclude from competing for recognition. For instance, the inability to distinguish /r/ from /l/ in rocket and locker makes for Japanese listeners both words possible candidates when hearing their onset (e.g., Cutler, Weber, and Otake, 2006). The L2 disadvantage can, however, be dispelled: For L2 listeners, but not L1 listeners, L2 speech from a non-native talker with the same language background is known to be as intelligible as L2 speech from a native talker (e.g., Bent and Bradlow, 2003). A reason for this may be that L2 listeners have ample experience with segmental deviations that are characteristic for their own accent. On this account, only phonemic deviations that are typical for the listeners’ own accent will cause spurious lexical activation in L2 listening (e.g., English magic pronounced as megic for Dutch listeners). In this talk, I will present evidence from cross-modal priming studies with a variety of L2 listener groups, showing how the processing of phonemic deviations is accent-specific but withstands fine phonetic differences.