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Linguistic, cognitive, and neural predictors in the ability to detect and learn L2 stress: The impact of L1, musical aptitude, phonological awareness, auditory working memory and brain activation

English title Linguistic, cognitive, and neural predictors in the ability to detect and learn L2 stress: The impact of L1, musical aptitude, phonological awareness, auditory working memory and brain activation
Applicant Schwab Sandra
Number 200824
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Département de Français Université de Fribourg
Institution of higher education University of Fribourg - FR
Main discipline Applied linguistics
Start/End 01.05.2021 - 31.07.2022
Approved amount 242'090.00
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All Disciplines (4)

Discipline
Applied linguistics
Neurophysiology and Brain Research
Applied psychology
Education and learning sciences, subject-specific education

Keywords (5)

functional MRI; lexical stress contrasts; interindividual variability; perceptual training; acquisition of prosody in L2

Lay Summary (French)

Lead
La discrimination de contrastes accentuels dans une langue étrangère/seconde (L2) (ex., anglais import, 'importation' vs import, 'importer') peut être une tâche difficile pour les auditeurs natifs d'une langue à accent prévisible, telle que le français. Les chercheurs parlent même de 'surdité' accentuelle! Il semblerait toutefois qu'un bref entraînement perceptif permettrait de réduire (en partie, du moins) cette 'surdité' accentuelle, certes avec des degrés divers de réussite selon les auditeurs.
Lay summary

Objectifs visés par le projet de recherche
Ce projet a pour but de mieux comprendre la variabilité inter-individuelle observée lors de l'apprentissage de la prosodie dans une langue étrangère. Pour cela, nous nous pencherons sur la discrimination de contrastes accentuels espagnols par des francophones et des germanophones. Plus précisément, nous examinerons tout d'abord le rôle joué par différents facteurs liés aux compétences linguistiques, musicales et cognitives. Ensuite, nous identifierons les régions cérébrales activées lors du traitement de l'information accentuelle en L2. Finalement, nous déterminerons dans quelle mesure l'activation de ces régions prédisent la capacité des participants à (apprendre à) discriminer les contrastes accentuels en L2.

Contexte scientifique et sociétal du projet de recherche
Cette recherche se veut pluridisciplinaire, alliant phonétique et neuro-psycholinguistique. De plus, nos conclusions, outre les implications qu'elles auront pour la recherche fondamentale, auront des conséquences directes pour l'enseignement des langues étrangères, plus particulièrement pour l'enseignement de la prononciation, où une sensibilisation aux contrastes accentuels, contribuant souvent à l'intelligibilité d'un énoncé, fait généralement défaut.

 

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 26.04.2021

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
The discrimination of stress contrasts in a foreign/second language (L2) (e.g., import, 'vs import) may be a difficult task for native listeners of languages with predictable stress (e.g., French), who have even been considered as being 'deaf' to stress. Research has shown that this stress 'deafness' can nevertheless be (at least partly) reduced with a short perceptual training, although with large interindividual differences.
Lay summary

Objectives

The present project aims to better understand the interindividual variability observed in L2 prosody acquisition. For this, we will focus on the discrimination of Spanish stress contrasts by French- and German-speaking listeners. First, we will examine the role of native language, and rhythm-, language- and cognition-related skills in the capacity to process and learn L2 stress contrasts. Second, we will identify brain regions activated during word stress processing in L2. Finally, we will determine to what extent the activation of specific brain regions correlates with the ability to detect and learn L2 stress contrasts.

Scientific and social context

The present research is interdisciplinary bridging between phonetics and neuro-psycholinguistics. Besides implications for fundamental research, our conclusions will contribute to the improvement of L2 teaching with the development of more targeted learning protocols. Taken together, the findings of our research will provide a better understanding of how non-native listeners process speech in a foreign language, and will propose learning solutions to improve their speech perception and, hence, their communication in a second language.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 26.04.2021

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

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Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
180523 Interindividual variability in the learning of stress contrasts in a second language: A behavioral and fMRI study 01.06.2018 Scientific Exchanges
148036 Acquisition de la prosodie en langue seconde: l'étude de la perception de l'accent lexical sur la base d'expériences comportementales et électrophysiologiques 01.08.2014 Ambizione

Abstract

The discrimination of lexical stress contrasts in a foreign/second language (L2) (e.g., English import versus import; Spanish número versus numero) constitutes a complicated task for some listeners, especially for native speakers of languages with predictable lexical stress (e.g., French). The listeners' ability to detect L2 stress depends not only on their native language (L1) and its stress properties (fixed versus free stress, default stress pattern, stress acoustic cues), but also on the learners' musical aptitude and cognitive factors (e.g., working memory or phonological awareness). Recent research has shown that, despite this so-called stress 'deafness', learners were able to overcome (part of) their L2 stress detection difficulties thanks to a perceptual training; however, there was a certain degree of interindividual variability in the amount of improvement after training.The present project aims to better understand the interindividual variability observed in L2 stress acquisition by means of behavioral and neuroimaging experiments. The specific objectives are: 1) Establish the relationship between L1, rhythm-, language- and cognition-related skills and the ability to detect and learn L2 stress contrasts; 2) Identify brain networks involved in word stress processing in a second language (particularly at the level of the right hemisphere), and determine if the level of their activation correlates with the ability to detect and learn L2 stress contrasts. For that, we will carry out a series of behavioral and fMRI perception experiments in Spanish with a special focus on French- and German-speaking listeners. Our behavioral experiments, with pre- and post-training design, will examine the influence of the learners' L1 (French and German), musical aptitude and cognitive components (i.e., working memory, phonological awareness) in learning L2 stress contrasts discrimination. The fMRI experiment will investigate to what extent the pre-training activation of specific brain regions can predict the listeners' L2 stress detection performance and learning ability.The proposed project addresses important issues about interindividual variability in the acquisition of prosody in a second language. Linguistic, cognitive, and neural predictors will be identified in order to predict a learner's ability to discriminate stress contrasts in L2. Our research will have implications for future psycholinguistic and neuroimaging studies that will be able to further explicate the neural bases of speech perception. It will also contribute to the improvement of L2 teaching with the development of more targeted learning protocols. Taken together, the findings of our research will provide a better understanding of how non-native listeners process speech in a foreign language and will propose learning solutions to improve their speech perception and, hence, their communication in a second language.
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