26.2081, Diss: English, German; Lang Acq, Phonetics, Phonology, Psycholing: Schuhmann: 'Perceptual Learning in Second Language Learners'

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LINGUIST List: Vol-26-2081. Sat Apr 18 2015. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 26.2081, Diss: English, German; Lang Acq, Phonetics, Phonology, Psycholing: Schuhmann: 'Perceptual Learning in Second Language Learners'

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Date: Sat, 18 Apr 2015 17:19:36
From: Katharina Schuhmann [Katharina.schuhmann at gmail.com]
Subject: Perceptual Learning in Second Language Learners

Institution: Stony Brook University 
Program: Linguistics 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2014 

Author: Katharina Sophie Schuhmann

Dissertation Title: Perceptual Learning in Second Language Learners 

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
                     German (deu)

Dissertation Director(s):
Marie K. Huffman
Ellen I. Broselow
Arthur G. Samuel
Rachel Hayes-Harb

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation studied the flexibility of linguistic representations in
monolingual and bilingual speakers of English. We conducted four perceptual
learning studies to determine how monolingual English and English-German
bilingual listeners mentally represent fricative phonemes. Listeners first
completed an auditory lexical decision task in English in which critical
stimuli contained either an /f/ or /s/ that had been replaced with a mixture
in between [f] and [s]. Subsequently, listeners completed forced-choice
phoneme categorization tasks to test for perceptual learning on the trained
English /f-s/ contrast and possible generalization to other within-language
contrasts, and possible cross-language generalization. We hypothesized (a)
that perceptual learning in monolinguals would generalize across phonological
features if the relevant phoneme contrast is signaled by similar
acoustic-phonetic cues, and (b) that perceptual learning would generalize from
English to German because the phonetic properties important to fricative
contrasts in the two languages are similar.
We found evidence of perceptual learning, and some generalization across
phonemes and/or languages, in a complex pattern that suggests an important
influence of type of bilingual experience. The monolingual English listeners
showed perceptual learning on English /f-s/ and generalized the effect to the
/v-z/ contrast, as predicted. Novice L1 English – L2 German speakers in the US
(study 2 & 3) also showed perceptual learning on the trained English /f-s/
contrast. In addition, listeners in study 2 showed no perceptual learning in
German, while participants in study 3, who were in a somewhat more bilingual
language mode (Grosjean 1997, 2001), did show perceptual learning effects on
German /f-s/ and German /v-z/. In study 4, intermediate-to-advanced L1 German
– L2 English speakers in Germany who were in a bilingual language mode, showed
perceptual learning on English /f-s/ and German /f-s/, but not on the voiced
/v-z/ fricative contrast in either language.
These bilingual results are explained with a model in which phonemes common to
two languages have separate but dynamically associated representations. A
bilingual mode strengthens the interconnections between phonemes, thus
facilitating cross-linguistic effects. Effects are strongest in L2 sound
systems when perceptual learning generalizes from the dominant L1 to the
non-dominant, novice L2. Finally, non-native listeners adjust the
representation of phoneme boundaries in their L2 at the level of individual
phoneme contrasts, and do not generalize these adaptation effects to phoneme
contrasts that share relevant phonological features.

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