Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour
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Thesis defense Jana Thorin (Krutwig) (Donders series 420)

20 February 2020

Promotor: prof. dr. J. McQueen
Co-promotor: prof. dr. P. Desain, dr. M. Sadakata

Can you hear what you cannot say - The interactions of speech perception and production during non-native phoneme learning

While many adults experience difficulties with discriminating specific sounds in a second language (L2), it remains unclear where in the linguistic system these difficulties originate from. Putting it simply: It is unclear whether they cannot hear the difference and are therefore unable to produce it, or vice versa. The aim of this dissertation was to further our understanding of how speech perception and speech production interact in the course of learning novel phonemic categories. More concretely, it was examined how this learning process in one of the speech modalities would transfer to similar improvements in the other one and if second language learners could benefit from combined training methods involving both modalities. It was also tested to what extent the verbal self-monitoring system could adapt to newly-learnt non-native elements and thereby support second language speech acquisition. To this end, a variety of methods was employed including two multi-day training paradigms as well as the analysis of behavioural, speech and electrophysiological measurements. All experiments in this dissertation are based on a population of Dutch native speakers with intermediate/ high levels of English proficiency and use the British English /æ/ and /ɛ/ vowels. Overall, the results showed cross-modality transfer in both directions indicating that the relationship between the speech modalities during language learning is bidirectional. Furthermore, L2 sound learning is likely influenced by a number of critical factors, including individual differences, motivation, production variability and cross-language phonological mapping.