Weber, A., Sumner, M., Krott, A., Huettig, F., & Hanulikova, A.
(2011). Sinking about boats and brains: Activation of word meaning in foreign-accented speech by native and nonnative listeners. Poster presented at the First International Conference on Cognitive Hearing Science for Communication, Linköping, Sweden.
Sinking about boats and brains: activation of word meaning in foreign-accented speech by native and non-native listeners
Andrea Weber, Meghan Sumner, Andrea Krott, Falk Huettig, Adriana Hanulikova
Understanding foreign-accented speech requires from listeners the correct interpretation of segmental variation as in German-accented [s]eft for English theft. The task difficulty increases when the accented word forms resemble existing words as in [s]ink for think. In two English priming experiments, we investigated the activation of the meanings of intended and unintended words by accented primes. American native (L1) and German non-native (L2) participants listened to auditory primes followed by visual targets to which they made lexical decisions. Primes were produced by a native German speaker and were either nonsense words ([s]eft for theft), unintended words ([s]ink for think), or words in their canonical forms (salt for salt). Furthermore, primes were strongly associated to targets, with the co-occurrence being high either between the surface form of the prime and the target ([s]ink-BOAT, salt-PEPPER) or the underlying form and the target ([s]ink-BRAIN, seft-PRISON).
L1 listeners responded faster when the underlying form was associated with the target (in comparison to unrelated primes), but L2 listeners responded faster when the surface form was associated. Seemingly, L1 listeners interpreted all primes as being mispronounced – facilitating the activation of think when hearing the unintended word [s]ink, but erroneously preventing the activation of salt when hearing the canonical form salt. L2 listeners, though, took primes at face value and failed to activate the meaning of think when hearing [s]ink but did activate the meaning of salt when hearing salt. This asymmetry suggests an interesting difference in the use of high-level information, with L1 listeners, but not L2 listeners, using knowledge about segmental variations for immediate meaning activation.