ASA 127th Meeting M.I.T. 1994 June 6-10

5aSP5. Speech perception by second language learners.

Winifred Strange

Dept. of Commun. Sci. and Disord., BEH 255, Univ. of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL 33620-8150

Cross-language studies of speech perception by adults have shown ``language-specific'' patterns of perception of phonetic categories and contrasts. In general, phonetic categories that are distinctive (phonemic) in the listener's native language are differentiated easily and effortlessly, while non-native phonetic categories/contrasts present perceptual difficulties. Thus learners of a second language (L2) often have persistant difficulty learning to perceive (and produce) ``foreign'' consonants and vowels. However, recent research has shown that not all non-native phonetic categories and contrasts are equally difficult to differentiate perceptually. Current theories that attempt to predict and explain these relative perceptual difficulties in terms of the relationship between native language (L1) and L2 phonetic categories will be discussed. In addition, results of perceptual training experiments with L2 learners which explore the effects of subject, stimulus, and task variables on perception of non-native phonetic categories will be summarized. Finally, implications of this research for general theories of speech perception and perceptual learning will be suggested. [Work supported by NIDCD.]