Processing foreign-accented speech in a second language: Evidence from ERPs during sentence comprehension in bilinguals
Grey, S., Schubel, L. C., McQueen, J. M., & Van Hell, J. G.
Processing foreign-accented speech in a second language: Evidence from ERPs during sentence comprehension in bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 22
(5), 912-929. doi:10.1017/S1366728918000937.
This study examined electrophysiological correlates of sentence comprehension of native-accented and foreign-accented
speech in a second language (L2), for sentences produced in a foreign accent different from that associated with the listeners’
L1. Bilingual speaker-listeners process different accents in their L2 conversations, but the effects on real-time L2 sentence
comprehension are unknown. Dutch–English bilinguals listened to native American-English accented sentences and foreign
(and for them unfamiliarly-accented) Chinese-English accented sentences while EEG was recorded. Behavioral sentence
comprehension was highly accurate for both native-accented and foreign-accented sentences. ERPs showed different patterns
for L2 grammar and semantic processing of native- and foreign-accented speech. For grammar, only native-accented speech
elicited an Nref. For semantics, both native- and foreign-accented speech elicited an N400 effect, but with a delayed onset
across both accent conditions. These findings suggest that the way listeners comprehend native- and foreign-accented
sentences in their L2 depends on their familiarity with the accent.
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