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The neural timecourse of American English vowel discrimination by Japanese, Russian and Spanish second-language learners of English

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  21 April 2021

Valerie L. Shafer*
Affiliation:
The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY, USA
Sarah Kresh
Affiliation:
The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY, USA
Kikuyo Ito
Affiliation:
Kansai Gaidai University and Kansai Gaidai College, Hirakata, Osaka Japan
Miwako Hisagi
Affiliation:
California State University, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Nancy Vidal
Affiliation:
Iona College, New Rochelle, NYUSA
Eve Higby
Affiliation:
California State University, East Bay, Hayward, CA, USA
Daniela Castillo
Affiliation:
The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY, USA
Winifred Strange
Affiliation:
The Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York, NY, USA
*
Address for correspondence: Valerie L. Shafer, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 365 Fifth Avenue, NY, NY 10516 Email: vshafer@gc.cuny.edu

Abstract

This study investigated the influence of first language (L1) phoneme features and phonetic salience on discrimination of second language (L2) American English (AE) vowels. On a perceptual task, L2 adult learners of English with Spanish, Japanese or Russian as an L1 showed poorer discrimination of the spectral-only difference between /æ:/ as the oddball (deviant) among frequent /ɑ:/ stimuli compared to AE controls. The Spanish listeners showed a significant difference from the controls for the spectral-temporal contrast between /ɑ:/ and /ʌ/ for both perception and the neural Mismatch Negativity (MMN), but only for deviant /ɑ:/ versus /ʌ/ (duration decrement). For deviant /ʌ/ versus /ɑ:/, and for deviant /æ:/ versus /ʌ/ or /ɑ:/, all participants showed equivalent MMN amplitude. The asymmetrical pattern for /ɑ:/ and /ʌ/ suggested that L2 phonetic detail was maintained only for the deviant. These findings indicated that discrimination was more strongly influenced by L1 phonology than phonetic salience.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

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