Recognizing non-native spoken words in background noise increases interference from the native language
Hintz, F., Voeten, C. C., & Scharenborg, O.
Recognizing non-native spoken words in background noise increases interference from the native language. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. Advance online publication
Listeners frequently recognize spoken words in the presence of background noise. Previous research has shown that noise reduces phoneme intelligibility and hampers spoken-word recognition—especially for non-native listeners. In the present study, we investigated how noise influences lexical competition in both the non-native and the native language, reflecting the degree to which both languages are co-activated. We recorded the eye movements of native Dutch participants as they listened to English sentences containing a target word while looking at displays containing four objects. On target-present trials, the visual referent depicting the target word was present, along with three unrelated distractors. On target-absent trials, the target object (e.g., wizard) was absent. Instead, the display contained an English competitor, overlapping with the English target in phonological onset (e.g., window), a Dutch competitor, overlapping with the English target in phonological onset (e.g., wimpel, pennant), and two unrelated distractors. Half of the sentences was masked by speech-shaped noise; the other half was presented in quiet. Compared to speech in quiet, noise delayed fixations to the target objects on target-present trials. For target-absent trials, we observed that the likelihood for fixation biases towards the English and Dutch onset competitors (over the unrelated distractors) was larger in noise than in quiet. Our data thus show that the presence of background noise increases lexical competition in the task-relevant non-native (English) and in the task-irrelevant native (Dutch) language. The latter reflects stronger interference of one’s native language during non-native spoken-word recognition under adverse conditions.
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