We typically find it easier to recognize spoken words in our native language than in a second language. Second language listeners often have trouble hearing the difference between two speech sounds that make no distinction in their native language, and they may struggle to adapt to unfamiliar accents. Nevertheless, developing accurate second language speech perception is crucial for successful communication in that language.
In this thesis, Emily Felker investigated several mechanisms for improving second language speech perception. During dialogue with a native speaker, listeners were shown to adapt to an unfamiliar accent on the basis of corrective feedback from their interlocutor, as well as from visually presented lexical information that constrained their interpretation of their interlocutor's speech. Moreover, explicit phonetic instruction was shown to improve listeners' phonological awareness and perception of second-language speech sounds. Finally, and more broadly, this thesis described and validated two methodological innovations that can enrich psycholinguistic research on conversational speech processing.