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Phonological memory, attention control, and musical ability: Effects of individual differences on rater judgments of second language speech



This study examines how listener judgments of second language speech relate to individual differences in listeners’ phonological memory, attention control, and musical ability. Sixty native English listeners (30 music majors, 30 nonmusic majors) rated 40 nonnative speech samples for accentedness, comprehensibility, and fluency. The listeners were also assessed for phonological memory (serial recognition), attention control (trail making), and musical aptitude. Results showed that music majors assigned significantly lower scores than nonmusic majors solely for accentedness, particularly for low ability second language speakers. However, the ratings were not significantly affected by individual differences in listeners’ phonological memory and attention control, which implies that these factors do not bias listeners’ subjective judgments of speech. Implications for psycholinguistic research and for high-stakes speaking assessments are discussed.


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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Talia Isaacs, Department of Integrated Studies in Education, Faculty of Education, McGill University, 3700 McTavish Street, Montreal, QC H3A 1Y2, Canada. E-mail:


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