Vowel perception: Effects of non-native language vs. non-native dialect

Cutler, A., Smits, R., & Cooper, N. (2005). Vowel perception: Effects of non-native language vs. non-native dialect. Speech Communication, 47(1-2), 32-42. doi:10.1016/j.specom.2005.02.001.
Three groups of listeners identified the vowel in CV and VC syllables produced by an American English talker. The listeners were (a) native speakers of American English, (b) native speakers of Australian English (different dialect), and (c) native speakers of Dutch (different language). The syllables were embedded in multispeaker babble at three signal-to-noise ratios (0 dB, 8 dB, and 16 dB). The identification performance of native listeners was significantly better than that of listeners with another language but did not significantly differ from the performance of listeners with another dialect. Dialect differences did however affect the type of perceptual confusions which listeners made; in particular, the Australian listeners’ judgements of vowel tenseness were more variable than the American listeners’ judgements, which may be ascribed to cross-dialectal differences in this vocalic feature. Although listening difficulty can result when speech input mismatches the native dialect in terms of the precise cues for and boundaries of phonetic categories, the difficulty is very much less than that which arises when speech input mismatches the native language in terms of the repertoire of phonemic categories available.
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