Production effects on foreign accent perception

Ann-Kathrin Grohe, English Linguistics
Understanding a second language (L2) speaker is often perceived to be more difficult than understanding a native (L1) speaker. Speech from L2 speakers frequently deviates from the standard pronunciation of a target language (i.e., it is foreign-accented) and the deviations can obstruct the complex processes of comprehension. Luckily, however, recent research has shown that we can rapidly overcome the initial processing difficulties and adapt to foreign-accented speech, both when listening to our native language and when listening to a second language (e.g., Wittemann, Weber, & McQueen, 2012). Furthermore, foreign-accented speech is not always more difficult to understand than native speech. In our second language, for example, we can understand L2 speakers that match our native language background equally well or even better than native speakers of that language (Bent & Bradlow, 2003). Why is it that we can easily understand L2 speech that matches our own foreign accent? Is this effect mainly driven by our own personal production of L2 speech or does it rather reflect regular exposure to other L2 speakers with an accent similar to our own accent? My project will investigate this question by examining the effects of own-accent production on the perception of accented speech in a second language.

References
Bent, T., & Bradlow, A. R. (2003). The interlanguage speech intelligibility benefit. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 114(3), 1600. doi:10.1121/1.1603234
Witteman, M. J., Weber, A., & McQueen, J. M. (2010). Rapid and long-lasting adaptation to foreign-accented speech. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 128, 2486.