Skip to main content
×
×
Home

Variability in L2 phonemic learning originates from speech-specific capabilities: An MMN study on late bilinguals*

  • BEGOÑA DÍAZ (a1), HOLGER MITTERER (a2), MIRJAM BROERSMA (a3) (a4), CARLES ESCERA (a5) (a6) and NÚRIA SEBASTIÁN-GALLÉS (a1)...
Abstract

People differ in their ability to perceive second language (L2) sounds. In early bilinguals the variability in learning L2 phonemes stems from speech-specific capabilities (Díaz, Baus, Escera, Costa & Sebastián-Gallés, 2008). The present study addresses whether speech-specific capabilities similarly explain variability in late bilinguals. Event-related potentials were recorded (using a design similar to Díaz et al., 2008) in two groups of late Dutch–English bilinguals who were good or poor in overtly discriminating the L2 English vowels /ε-æ/. The mismatch negativity, an index of discrimination sensitivity, was similar between the groups in conditions involving pure tones (of different length, frequency, and presentation order) but was attenuated in poor L2 perceivers for native, unknown, and L2 phonemes. These results suggest that variability in L2 phonemic learning originates from speech-specific capabilities and imply a continuity of L2 phonemic learning mechanisms throughout the lifespan.

Copyright
Corresponding author
Address for correspondence: Begoña Díaz, Dept. Technology, C. Roc Boronat 138, 08018 Barcelona, Spain begona.diaz@upf.edu
Footnotes
Hide All
*

This work was supported by the People Programme (Marie Curie Actions) of the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under REA grant agreement n° 32867 and a postdoctoral fellowship from the Spanish Government (Juan de la Cierva fellowship) to B.D., a Veni grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) to M.B., a grant from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013): ERG grant agreement number 323961 (UNDER CONTROL) and Collaborative grant FP7-2013-613465 (ATHEME) to N.S.G. and by grants from the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad (PSI 2012 – 34071; SEJ2009-09072) and the Catalan Government (SGR 2014–1210; SGR2009-11) awarded to N.S.G. and C.E. N.S.G. and C.E. received the prize ‘ICREA Acadèmia’ for excellence in research, funded by the Generalitat de Catalunya. The authors want to thank Xavier Mayoral for his technical support and Robert F. de Menezes for comments on the manuscript.

Footnotes
References
Hide All
Amenedo, E., & Escera, C. (2000). The accuracy of sound duration representation in the human brain determines the accuracy of behavioural perception. The European Journal of Neuroscience, 12, 25702574.
Archila-Suerte, P., Bunta, F., & Hernandez, A. E. (in press). Speech sound learning depends on individuals’ ability, not just experience. International Journal of Bilingualism.
Atienza, M., Cantero, J. L., Grau, C., Gomez, C., Dominguez-Marin, E., & Escera, C. (2003). Effects of temporal encoding on auditory object formation: A mismatch negativity study. Cognitive Brain Research, 16, 359371.
Best, C. T. (1995). A direct realist view of cross-language speech perception. In Strange, W. (ed.), Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research, pp. 171204. Baltimore: York Press.
Best, C. T., & Tyler, M. D. (2007). Non-native and second-language speech perception: Commonalities and complementarities. In Bohn, O. S., & Munro, M. J. (eds.), Language experience in second language speech learning: In honor of James Emil Flege, pp. 1334. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Birdsong, D. (1999). Second language acquisition and the critical period hypothesis. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Boersma, P. (2001). Praat, a system for doing phonetics by computer. Glot International, 5, 341345.
Bongaerts, T. (1999). Ultimate attainment in foreign language pronunciation: The case of very advanced late foreign language learners. In Birdsong, D. (ed.), Second language acquisition and the critical period hypothesis, pp. 133159. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Broersma, M. (2005). Perception of familiar contrasts in unfamiliar positions. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 117, 38903901.
Broersma, M. (2012). Increased lexical activation and reduced competition in second-language listening. Language and Cognitive Processes, 27, 12051224.
Broersma, M., & Cutler, A. (2008). Phantom word activation in L2. System: An International Journal of Educational Technology and Applied Linguistics, 36, 2234.
Broersma, M., & Cutler, A. (2011). Competition dynamics of second-language listening. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 64, 7495.
Caramazza, A., Yeni-Komshian, G., Zurif, E., & Carbone, E. (1973). The acquisition of a new phonological contrast: The case of stop consonants in French-English bilinguals. Journal of the Acoustic Society of America, 54, 421428.
Corbera, S., Corral, M. J., Escera, C., & Idiazábal, M. A. (2005). Abnormal speech sound representation in developmental stuttering. Neurology, 65, 12461252.
Cutler, A., Weber, A., Smits, R., & Cooper, N. (2004). Patterns of English phoneme confusions by native and non-native listeners. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 116, 36683678.
Deouell, L. Y. (2007). The frontal generator of the mismatch negativity revisited. Journal of Psychophysiology, 21, 188203.
Díaz, B., Baus, C., Escera, C., Costa, A., & Sebastián-Gallés, N. (2008). Brain potentials to native phoneme discrimination reveal the origin of individual differences in learning the sounds of a second language. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 105, 1608316088.
Díaz, B., Mitterer, H., Broersma, M., & Sebastián-Gallés, N. (2012). Individual differences in late bilinguals’ L2 phonological processes: From acoustic-phonetic analysis to lexical access. Learning and Individual Differences, 22, 680689.
Escera, C., Alho, K., Winkler, I., & Näätänen, R. (1998). Neural mechanisms of involuntary attention to acoustic novelty and change. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 10, 590604.
Flege, J. E. (1995). Second language speech learning: Theory, findings and problems. In Strange, W. (ed.), Speech perception and linguistic experience, pp. 233272. Baltimore, MD: York Press.
Giard, M. H., Perrin, F., Pernier, J., & Bouchet, P. (1990). Brain generators implicated in the processing of auditory stimulus deviance: A topographic event-related potential study. Psychophysiology, 27, 627640.
Goldinger, S. D. (2007). A complementary-systems approach to abstract and episodic speech perception. In Trouvain, J., & Barry, W. J. (eds.), Proceedings of the 16th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, pp. 4954. Dudweiler: Pirrot.
Golestani, N., Molko, N., Dehaene, S., LeBihan, D., & Pallier, C. (2007). Brain structure predicts the learning of foreign speech sounds. Cerebral Cortex, 17, 575582.
Golestani, N., Paus, T., & Zatorre, R. J. (2002). Anatomical correlates of learning novel speech sounds. Neuron, 35, 9971010.
Golestani, N., & Zatorre, R. J. (2009). Individual differences in the acquisition of second language phonology. Brain and Language, 109, 5567.
Goto, H. (1971). Auditory perception by normal Japanese adults of the sounds “l” and “r”. Neuropsychologia, 9, 317323.
Hara, K., Ohta, K., Miyajima, M., Hara, M., Iino, H., Matsuda, A., Watanabe, S., Matsushima, T., Maehara, T., & Matsuura, M. (2012). Mismatch negativity for speech sounds in temporal lobe epilepsy. Epilepsy & Behavior, 23, 335341.
Hawkins, S., & Stevens, K. N. (1985). Acoustic and perceptual correlates of the non-nasal-nasal distinction for vowels. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 77, 15601575.
Indefrey, P. (2006). A meta-analysis of hemodynamic studies on first and second language processing: Which suggested differences can we trust and what do they mean? Language Learning, 56, 279304.
Jääskeläinen, I. P., Pekkonen, E., Hirvonen, J., Sillanaukee, P., & Näätänen, R. (1996). Mismatch negativity subcomponents and ethyl alcohol. Biological Psychology, 43, 1325.
Johnson, J. S., & Newport, E. L. (1989). Critical period effects in second language learning: The influence of maturational state on the acquisition of English as a second language. Cognitive Psychology, 21, 6099.
Kim, K., Relkin, N., Lee, K. M., & Hirsch, J. (1997). Distinct cortical areas associated with native and second languages. Nature, 388, 171174.
Klatt, D. (1980). Software for a cascade/parallel formant synthesizer. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 67, 971995.
Kuhl, P. K., Tsao, F. M., & Liu, H. M. (2003). Foreign-language experience in infancy: Effects of short-term exposure and social interaction on phonetic learning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 100, 90969101.
Kujala, T., & Näätänen, R. (2010). The adaptive brain: a neurophysiological perspective. Progress in Neurobiology, 91, 5567.
Lahiri, A., & Marslen-Wilson, W. (1991). The mental representation of lexical form: A phonological approach to the recognition lexicon. Cognition, 38, 254294.
Lavikainen, J., Huotilainen, M., Pekkonen, E., Ilmoniemi, R. J., & Näätänen, R. (1994). Auditory stimuli activate parietal brain regions: a whole-head MEG study. NeuroReport, 6, 182184.
Lengeris, A., & Hazan, V. (2010). The effect of native vowel processing ability and frequency discrimination acuity on the phonetic training of English vowels for native speakers of Greek. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 128, 37573768.
Lenneberg, E. H. (1967). Biological foundations of language. New York: Wiley.
McClelland, J. L., McNaughton, B. L., & O’Reilly, R. C. (1995). Why there are complementary learning systems in the hippocampus and neo-cortex: Insights from the successes and failures of connectionists models of learning and memory. Psychological Review, 102, 419457.
Mitterer, H., & McQueen, J. M. (2009). Foreign subtitles help but native-language subtitles harm foreign speech perception. PLoS ONE, 4, e7785.
Näätänen, R. (1990). The role of attention in auditory information processing as revealed by event-related potentials and other brain measures of cognitive function. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 13, 201288.
Näätänen, R. (2001). The perception of speech sounds by the human brain as reflected by the mismatch negativity (MMN) and its magnetic equivalent (MMNm). Psychophysiology, 38, 121.
Näätänen, R., Gaillard, A. W. K., Mäntysalo, S. (1978). Early selective-attention effect on evoked potential reinterpreted. Acta Psychologica, 42, 313–29.
Näätänen, R., Lehtokoski, A., Lennes, M., Cheour, M., Huotilainen, M., Iivonen, A., Vainio, M., Alku, P., Ilmoniemi, R., Luuk, A., Allik, J., Sinkkonen, J. & Alho, K. (1997). Language-specific phoneme representations revealed by electric and magnetic brain responses. Nature, 385, 432434.
Nenonen, S., Shestakova, A., Huotilainen, M., & Näätänen, R. (2005). Speech-sound duration processing in a second language is specific to phonetic categories. Brain and Language, 92, 2632.
Oldfield, R. C. (1971). The assessment and analysis of handedness: The Edinburgh inventory. Neuropsychologia, 9, 97113.
Oyama, S. (1976). A sensitive period for the acquisition of a non-native phonological system. Journal of Psycholinguitic Research, 5, 261285.
Paavilainen, P., Mikkonen, M., Kilpeläinen, M., Lehtinen, R., Saarela, M., & Tapola, L. (2003). Evidence for the different additivity of the temporal and frontal generators of Mismatch Negativity: A human auditory event-related potential study. Neuroscience Letters, 349, 7982.
Pallier, C., Bosch, L., & Sebastián-Gallés, N. (1997). A limit on behavioral plasticity in speech perception. Cognition, 64, B9B17.
Pallier, C., Colomé, A., & Sebastián-Gallés, N. (2001). The influence of native-language phonology on lexical access: Exemplar-based versus abstract lexical entries. Psychological Science, 12, 445449.
Patkowski, M. S. (1980). The sensitive period for the acquisition of syntax in a second language. Language Learning, 30, 449468.
Perani, D., & Abutalebi, J. (2005). The neural basis of first and second language processing. Current Opinion in Neurobiology, 15, 202206.
Perani, D., Paulesu, E., Sebastián-Gallés, N., Dupoux, E., Dehaene, S., Bettinardi, V., Cappa, S., Fazio, F., & Mehler, J. (1998). The bilingual brain - proficiency and age of acquisition of the second language. Brain, 121, 18411852.
Poulisse, N., Bongaerts, T., & Kellerman, E. (1990). The use of compensatory strategies by Dutch learners of English. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Foris.
Pulvermüller, F., & Schumann, J. H. (1994). Neurobiological mechanisms of language acquisition. Language Learning, 44, 681734.
Reinisch, E., & Sjerps, M. J. (2013). The uptake of spectral and temporal cues in vowel perception is rapidly influenced by context. Journal of Phonetics, 41, 101116.
Rietveld, T., & van Heuven, V. (1997). Algemene fonetiek [general phonetics]. Bussum: Coutinho.
Sato, Y., Hirooki, Y., Tomiharu, H., Takeyuki, S., Naoko, S., Tadayoshi, N., & Sunao, K. (2000). The effect of deviant stimulus probability on the human mismatch process. NeuroReport, 11, 37033708.
Sebastián-Gallés, N., & Baus, C. (2005). On the relationship between perception and production in L2 categories. In Cutler, A. (ed.), Twenty-first century psycholinguistics: Four cornerstones, pp. 279292. New York: Erlbaum.
Sebastián-Gallés, N., & Díaz, B. (2012). First and second language speech perception: Graded learning. Language Learning, 62, 131147.
Sebastián-Gallés, N., Echeverría, S., & Bosch, L. (2005). The influence of initial exposure on lexical representation: Comparing early and simultaneous bilinguals. Journal of Memory and Language, 52, 240255.
Sebastián-Gallés, N., Soriano-Mas, C., Baus, C., Díaz, B., Ressel, V., Pallier, C., Costa, A., & Pujol, J. (2012). Neuroanatomical markers of individual differences in native and non-native vowel perception. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 25, 150162.
Sebastián-Gallés, N., & Soto-Faraco, S. (1999). Online processing of native and non-native phonemic contrasts in early bilinguals. Cognition, 72, 111123.
Shalgi, S., & Deouell, L. Y. (2007). Direct evidence for differential roles of temporal and frontal components of auditory change detection. Neuropsychologia, 45, 18781888.
Sussman, E., & Winkler, I. (2001). Dynamic sensory updating in the auditory system. Cognitive Brain Research, 12, 431439
Tremblay, K., Kraus, N., & McGee, T. (1998). The time course of auditory perceptual learning: Neurophysiological changes during speech-sound training. Neuroreport, 9, 35573560.
Tricomi, E., Delgado, M. R., McCandliss, B. D., McClelland, J. L., & Fiez, J. A. (2006). Performance feedback drives caudate activation in a phonological learning task. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 18, 10291043.
Wartenburger, I., Heekeren, H. R., Abutalebi, J., Cappa, S. F., Villringer, A., & Perani, D. (2003). Early setting of grammatical processing in the bilingual brain. Neuron, 37, 159170.
Weber, A., & Cutler, A. (2004). Lexical competition in non-native spoken-word recognition. Journal of Memory and Language, 50, 125.
Weber-Fox, C. M., & Neville, H. J. (1996). Maturational constraints on functional specialization for language processing: ERP and behavioral evidence in bilingual speakers. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 8, 231256.
Winkler, I., Kujala, T., Tiitinen, H., Sivonen, P., Alku, P., Lehtokoski, A., Czigler, I., Csépe, V., Ilmoniemi, R. J., & Näätänen, R. (1999). Brain responses reveal the learning of foreign language phonemes. Psychophysiology, 36, 638642.
Wong, P. C., Perrachione, T. K., & Parrish, T. B. (2007). Neural characteristics of successful and less successful speech and word learning in adults. Human Brain Mapping, 28, 9951006.
Wong, P. C., Warrier, C. M., Penhune, V. B., Roy, A. K., Sadehh, A., Parrish, T. B., & Zatorre, R. J. (2008). Volume of left Heschl's gyrus and linguistic pitch learning. Cerebral Cortex, 18, 828836.
Yago, E., Escera, C., Alho, K., & Giard, M. H. (2001). Cerebral mechanisms underlying orienting of attention towards auditory frequency changes. Neuroreport, 12, 25832587.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
  • URL: /core/journals/bilingualism-language-and-cognition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Keywords

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed