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Brain responses reveal the learning of foreign language phonemes

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 September 1999

ISTVÁN WINKLER
Affiliation:
Institute for Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland
TEIJA KUJALA
Affiliation:
Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland
HANNU TIITINEN
Affiliation:
Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland
PÄIVI SIVONEN
Affiliation:
Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland
PAAVO ALKU
Affiliation:
Department of Applied Physics, Electronics and Information Technology, University of Turku, Finland
ANNE LEHTOKOSKI
Affiliation:
Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland
ISTVÁN CZIGLER
Affiliation:
Institute for Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
VALÉRIA CSÉPE
Affiliation:
Institute for Psychology, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest, Hungary
RISTO J. ILMONIEMI
Affiliation:
BioMag Laboratory, Medical Engineering Centre, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Finland
RISTO NÄÄTÄNEN
Affiliation:
Cognitive Brain Research Unit, Department of Psychology, University of Helsinki, Finland BioMag Laboratory, Medical Engineering Centre, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Finland
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Abstract

Learning to speak a new language requires the formation of recognition patterns for the speech sounds specific to the newly acquired language. The present study demonstrates the dynamic nature of cortical memory representations for phonemes in adults by using the mismatch negativity (MMN) event-related potential. We studied Hungarian and Finnish subjects, dividing the Hungarians into a naive (no knowledge of Finnish) and a fluent (in Finnish) group. We found that the MMN for a contrast between two Finnish phonemes was elicited in the fluent Hungarians but not in the naive Hungarians. This result indicates that the fluent Hungarians developed cortical memory representations for the Finnish phoneme system that enabled them to preattentively categorize phonemes specific to this language.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 1999 Society for Psychophysiological Research

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