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Title: Variability in spoken language: Foreign-accented speech and its influence on the dynamics of processing

Speaker: Dr. Vincent Porretta, University of Windsor

Date: April 26, 2018

Time: 1:45 p.m.-2:45 p.m.

Location: TSH 203

When understanding non-native spoken language, listeners intuitively recognize that speakers vary in degree of foreign accentedness. This inherent variability can present a challenge for listeners, and while individuals can adapt to non-native speech over time, processing costs generally remain. How and why does this non-native variability impact spoken language processing?

I will present a series of studies that aim to elucidate the processing costs associated with listening to gradiently accented non-native speech. These experiments make use of behavioural and eye-tracking data to examine the processes that underlie successful (or unsuccessful) comprehension of accented speech. The findings reveal that as foreign accentedness of a word increases, its activation declines gradiently along the continuum; however, this can, in part, be mitigated by experience with the accent. This demonstrates that the perceived goodness-of-fit of a token relates to strength of lexical activation.

Further, even when comprehension is ultimately successful, accentedness increases the extent and magnitude of lexical competition, indicating that the uncertainty related to mapping accented speech in real time changes the patterns of activation through the lexicon.

Together, this work advances our understanding not only of the factors influencing listeners’ comprehension, but also how spoken language processing varies dynamically when faced with the wide variability that is characteristic of our diverse and global modern communities.