Learning second language speech perception in natural settings
Speech perception in a native language (L1) is usually an effortless process, but second language (L2) speech perception is more challenging. For instance, L2 listeners may have trouble hearing the difference between two sounds that make a phonemic contrast in their L2 but not in their L1. Moreover, they may be unfamiliar with accent-related variations in L2 speech sounds. These difficulties can make it harder to recognize words while listening.
This thesis investigates three learning mechanisms, ranging from implicit to explicit, that might improve L2 speech perception. First, implicit lexical guidance is shown to promote perceptual learning of a novel L2 accent in dialogue. Second, interactional corrective feedbackis shown to promote uptake for L2 speech perception. Third, explicit phonetic instruction featuring minimal word pairs is shown to improve phonological awareness and perception of L2 contrasts, demonstrating the benefit of directing listeners’ attention to specific sounds and phonetic cues.
Additionally, this thesis presents two methodological innovations for studying speech processing with more natural materials and in more natural settings than are typically used. First, it shows how the dictation task can be used to study perception of conversational speech by scoring transcriptions with measures that provide information about multiple aspects of the input that listeners can recover. Second, it describes and validates the ventriloquist paradigm, a new experimental method that incorporates pre-recorded speech into a face-to-face dialogue between a researcher and participant, thereby reconciling control over phonetic input with an interactive context.