The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 10/22 - Miwako Hisagi

Speaker: Miwako Hisagi (MIT RLE Speech Communication Group)
Title: Perception of Japanese vowel duration contrasts by L1 and L2 learners of Japanese: An EEG/MEG study.
Date/Time: Monday, Oct 22, 5:00p
Location: 32-D831

(Joint work with Shigeru Miyagawa, Valerie Shafer, Hadas Kotek, Ayaka Sugawara, Dimitrios Pantazis)

One challenge of second language (L2) acquisition research is to evaluate to what extent experience with an L2 leads to changes in automaticity of L2 speech perception. It is important to address whether L2 perception becomes more automatic with increasing experience. The present study investigated the MMN/MMF component. 12 native speakers of Japanese (JP), 12 naïve American English (AE) listeners (i.e., no knowledge of JP) and 12 L2 learners of JP who have acquired some knowledge of JP (i.e., one semester of Japanese) were tested on a vowel duration contrast (tado-taado) to determine whether experience with JP in a classroom leads to sufficiently robust selective perception routines (SPRs) to indicate automatization of speech perception at least for some learners. We used a visual attention task in which attention was directed away from the auditory stimuli. In result, the native JP listeners showed the largest MMN and the naïve AE listeners showed the smallest MMN, with the AE learners of JP showing an intermediate MMN. This study suggests that experience with the L2 (JP) leads to increasing robustness of discrimination of L2 phonemic contrasts, but that these representations (or SPRs) are still less robust than for L1 listeners and that attention modulates these findings.