J Psycholinguist Res (2009) 38:447–457DOI 10.1007/s10936-009-9099-1
Listening with an Accent: Speech Perceptionin a Second Language by Late Bilinguals
Published online: 4 March 2009© GovernmentEmployee 2009
The goal of the present study was to examine functioning of late bilinguals intheir second language. Specifically, we asked how native and non-native Hebrew speakinglistenersperceiveaccentedandnative-accentedHebrewspeech.Toachievethisgoalweusedthegatingparadigmtoexploretheabilityofhealthylateﬂuentbilinguals(RussianandArabicnative speakers) to recognize words in L2 (Hebrew) when they were spoken in an accent liketheir own, a native accent (Hebrew speakers), or another foreign accent (American accent).The data revealed that for Hebrew speakers, there was no effect of accent, whereas for thetwo bilingual groups (Russian and Arabic native speakers), stimuli with an accent like theirown and the native Hebrew accent, required significantly less phonological information thanthe other foreign accents. The results support the hypothesis that phonological assimilationworks in a similar manner in these two different groups.
The mechanism by which the structure of the native language affects second language pro-cessing is unclear (e.g.,Best and Strange 1992). Such a mechanism might involve pho-netic (segmental and suprasegmental), phonological, lexical, and/or other linguistic andextralinguistic processes (Guiora 1994). However, the adaptation of the phonetic catego-ries of L2 seems to be a necessary component of second language acquisition, and, con-sequently, bilinguals who attain a high level of proﬁciency in their L2 are able to exploitthe phonetic categories of that language in speech production and perception (Goetry andKolinsky2000). Categorical perception is attained in infancy, with exposure L1, and itseems to become neurologically “wired” (Zhang et al. 2005). Interestingly, categorical
R. Ibrahim (
S. SapirLearning Disabilities Department, Haifa University, Haifa 31905, Israele-mail: email@example.com