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Perception and lexical processing of gradient foreign accentedness Open Access


Other title
Lexical processing
Foreign-accented speech
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Porretta, Vincent J
Supervisor and department
Juhani Järvikivi (Linguistics)
Benjamin V. Tucker (Linguistics)
Examining committee member and department
Antti Arppe (Linguistics)
Anne-Michelle Tessier (Linguistics)
Juhani Järvikivi (Linguistics)
Benjamin V. Tucker (Linguistics)
Andrea Weber (English, Eberhard-Karls-Universität Tübingen)
Department of Linguistics

Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
This dissertation examines native speaker perception and processing of the variability inherent to non-native speech, specifically, Mandarin-accented English. In order to accomplish this, subjective ratings were first collected as a measure of perceived foreign accentedness. The influence of linguistic variables (both acoustic and lexical) was investigated with regard to the perception of gradient foreign accentedness. The results of the ratings study indicate that the perception of gradient accentedness is influenced by measures of acoustic distance (i.e., magnitude of difference between a given production and an average native production) as well as properties of the lexical items themselves (e.g., neighborhood density and phonotactic probability). These ratings were then utilized to investigate how the gradient nature of accentedness influences lexical processing across behavioral, (visual word) eye-tracking, and electrophysiological methods. Additionally, it was also possible to examine how self-reported listener experience with Chinese-accented speakers influences the processing of gradient accentedness. These studies provide converging and complementary evidence that processing of these tokens varies non-linearly along the accentedness continuum and by level of listener experience. The electrophysiological results indicate that the pattern of processing, including the allocation of perceptual and attentional resources, changes as a result of increased exposure to Chinese-accented English. The effect of experience is also seen in both reaction time and visual world eye-tracking data. The results of a cross-modal priming study indicate that degree of foreign accent modulates the strength with which lexical representations are primed and that listener experience with the accent in question mitigates this effect. Visual world eye-tracking presents similar results, showing that the time-course of word recognition is slowed as accentedness increases, though the ability to decode the signal is enhanced for listeners with greater experience. Taken together, the results come to bear on our understanding of how gradient foreign-accented speech maps onto linguistic representations and how those representations may change and adapt over time to accommodate the variability inherent to foreign-accented speech.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
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