Phoneme category retuning in a non-native language

Drozdova, P., Van Hout, R., & Scharenborg, O. (2014). Phoneme category retuning in a non-native language. In Proceedings of Interspeech 2014: 15th Annual Conference of the International Speech Communication Association (pp. 553-557).
Previous studies have demonstrated that native listeners
modify their interpretation of a speech sound when a talker
produces an ambiguous sound in order to quickly tune into a
speaker, but there is hardly any evidence that non-native
listeners employ a similar mechanism when encountering
ambiguous pronunciations. So far, one study demonstrated
this lexically-guided perceptual learning effect for nonnatives,
using phoneme categories similar in the native
language of the listeners and the non-native language of the
stimulus materials. The present study investigates the question
whether phoneme category retuning is possible in a nonnative
language for a contrast, /l/-/r/, which is phonetically
differently embedded in the native (Dutch) and nonnative
(English) languages involved. Listening experiments indeed
showed a lexically-guided perceptual learning effect.
Assuming that Dutch listeners have different phoneme
categories for the native Dutch and non-native English /r/, as
marked differences between the languages exist for /r/, these
results, for the first time, seem to suggest that listeners are not
only able to retune their native phoneme categories but also
their non-native phoneme categories to include ambiguous
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