CONFERENCIA - Understanding accented speech: the role of speaker identity and listener experience.
Current everyday communication is a cultural and linguistic melting pot. There are hundreds of millions of speakers of English as a second language in the world, so we are likely to encounter speakers who have a non-native accent when speaking English. We are also likely to interact with people from different backgrounds, whose accent may be similar or different from one’s own accent. Research has shown that non-native accented speech can challenge language comprehension. Although behavioral studies indicate that listeners adapt quickly to non-native accented speech, neurocognitive studies have shown distinct neural mechanisms in processing non-native accented sentences relative to native accented sentences. I will present a series of recent behavioral and EEG/ERP experiments in which we examined how speaker identity and listener experience affect the comprehension of non-native accented and native accented sentences. More specifically, we studied how listeners’ experience with non-native accented speech modulates accented speech comprehension by testing different groups of listeners (young and older adult monolinguals with little experience with non-native accented speech, listeners immersed in non-native accented speech, and bilingual (non-native accented) listeners). We also examined how faces cuing the speaker’s ethnicity (e.g., Asian face) create language expectations (here, Chinese-accented English), and how these biases impact the neural and cognitive mechanisms associated with the comprehension of American- and Chinese-accented English sentences. Implications of the findings will be discussed by integrating neuropsychological theories of language comprehension with linguistic theories on the role of socio-indexical cues in speech comprehension.