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J Acoust Soc Am. 2012 Oct;132(4):2700-10. doi: 10.1121/1.4747615.

Evidence for language transfer leading to a perceptual advantage for non-native listeners.

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University of Maryland, College Park Center for Advanced Study of Language, 7005 52nd Avenue, College Park, Maryland 20742, USA.


Phonological transfer from the native language is a common problem for non-native speakers that has repeatedly been shown to result in perceptual deficits vis-à-vis native speakers. It was hypothesized, however, that transfer could help, rather than hurt, if it resulted in a beneficial bias. Due to differences in pronunciation norms between Korean and English, Koreans in the U.S. were predicted to be better than Americans at perceiving unreleased stops-not only in their native language (Korean) but also in their non-native language (English). In three experiments, Koreans were found to be significantly more accurate than Americans at identifying unreleased stops in Korean, at identifying unreleased stops in English, and at discriminating between the presence and absence of an unreleased stop in English. Taken together, these results suggest that cross-linguistic transfer is capable of boosting speech perception by non-natives beyond native levels.

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