Interlingual Phonetic Interactions are Pliable

Tue, February 4, 2014 | BEN 2.104

4:00 PM - 5:00 PM

People who learn a second language are likely to retain a nonnative accent even after years of practice. The characteristics of this accent are typically attributed to the first or native language of the speaker, so that the accents of learners who share a native language differ from native norms in systematic, predictable ways. This suggests that the native and nonnative language sound (sub)systems interact in the mind of bilinguals. What is the nature of interlingual phonetic interactions? In this talk I report on the results of two phonetic experiments on proficient, sequential bilinguals. The findings show that interlingual phonetic interactions are affected by the communicative setting in which languages are produced, which suggests that interactions are modulated by the activation strength of nodes during the process of speech production. In this talk I explore the hypothesis that the two languages of a bilingual are activated in a non-selective manner during processing, which in turn impacts phonetic and phonological behavior in these speakers. I discuss the theoretical implications of this hypothesis, as well as some avenues for further research.

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