The perception of foreign-accented speech: Development and individual differences
Time: Friday, November 02, 2012, 04:00pm - 05:30pm
Place: Ballantine Hll 006
A listener’s ability to perceive speech accurately despite the vast amount of variability in the speech signal is contingent on the flexibility of the speech perception system and its rapid tuning to novel input. Variability in the speech signal is introduced by factors such as a talker’s dialect, gender, native language, age, and emotional state. Maintaining stable lexical access, therefore, requires perceptual constancy - the ability to identify the same word across different speakers or acoustic realizations. The current studies investigate the development of perceptual constancy and the skills that support the ability to perceive words that deviate from native talker norms. Two experiments tested adults’ and children’s perception of native- and foreign-accented words (Experiment 1) and sentences (Experiment 2) in noise. Across both studies, word identification accuracy was poorer with foreign-accented speech and when the listener was a child. The interaction between listener age and speaker accent differed across experiments. With words, recognition accuracy by children and adults declined from native- to foreign-accented speech by the same amount. However, with sentences, children showed larger performance decrements when presented with foreign-accented speech, particularly for talkers with strong foreign accents. Thus, children, whose cognitive and linguistic skills are less developed, have increasing difficulty maintaining perceptual constancy as stimulus complexity increases. There were substantial individual differences in word recognition performance for both adults and children. To investigate possible causes for these differences, participants' phonological processing skills - including phonological awareness, phonological memory, and processing speed - were tested. A central finding of this work was that the strongest predictor of word recognition performance on foreign-accented speech for both adults and children was phonological awareness. In contrast, the aspect of phonological processing which most strongest predicted performance on native-accented speech was phonological memory. These initial results suggest that the perception of these two speech varieties relies on partially different processing skills. Ongoing work - including the relationship between perceptual constancy and phonological processing in bilingual children - will be discussed.
|In category: Child language acquisition|
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