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SIP Colloquium -- Miguel Simonet, Univ. of Arizona: "First and second language phonetic categories interact in real time"

Event Type
Dept. of Spanish, Italian & Portuguese
Lucy Ellis Lounge, 1080 Foreign Languages Building
Apr 19, 2013   2:00 - 3:00 pm  
Miguel Simonet, Univ. of Arizona
Free and open to the public.

Speakers of a language can almost always detect when a person is not a native speaker, even when little auditory information is presented to them or when the raters are bilinguals themselves. These limits on the phonetic behavior of bilinguals are not easily overcome--second language learners retain a "foreign accent" even after years of exposure to (and use of) their second language. A recurrent

finding is that the earlier in life learners are exposed to their second language, the more likely they are to be able to minimize the consequences of these limitations. What is the etiology of the effects of age on phonetic learning? Over the years, scholars have proposed a number of explanations, from domain-specific neural crystallization (loss of plasticity) during early adolescence to the continued

interference of the first language on the second.The latter has received a great deal of support, so much so that most (if not all) models of second language speech learning and/or bilingual phonetics include operationalizations of the role of first-and-second language (interlingual) phonetic interactions.  The present paper explores the hypothesis that the two phonetic systems of bilinguals are both active

during processing and that these interact in real time. For this study, highly fluent early-onset bilinguals participated in two experimental sessions, a unilingual session and a bilingual session. Perception and production data were gathered. Acoustic analyses of production data show that the enhanced activation of

one language affects (attracts) the sounds of the other one. These effects, however, are apparently modulated by language experience, so that interlingual phonetic interactions are more salient for some bilinguals than for others. The paper concludes by putting forth an account of these findings modeled on theories of bilingual lexical activation (e.g., Kroll & Dijkstra 2002; de Bot, Lowie, and Verspoor, 2005); in this model, the simultaneous, real-time activation of two lexicons necessarily activates the phonetic detail of lexical representations, which are responsible for the observed interlingual phonetic "system" interactions.  The SIP Colloquium is a venue to share and discuss current research by SIP faculty, graduate students and guests.

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