What: Automaticity of speech processing in early bilingual adults and children
Where: BCBL auditorium
Who: Arild Hestvik, PhD. Psycholinguistics Laboratory, Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science, University of Delaware, Delaware, USA
When: 12 PM, noon
We examine whether early acquisition of a second language leads to native-like neural processing of phonemic contrasts that are absent in the L1. Four groups (adult and child monolingual speakers of English, and adult and child early bilingual speakers of English and Spanish) participated in a Mismatch Negativity experiment comparing the English /ɪ/ – /ɛ/ contrast. Neural measures of attention were measured by varying whether participants tracked the stimulus stream or not. We observed no difference between the groups in the automatic change detection measure MMN. However, adult bilinguals differed significantly from adult monolinguals on neural indices of attention to the speech sounds (processing negativity–PN, and late discriminatory negativity–LN). The child bilinguals were indistinguishable from their monolingual peers in all ERPs: MMN, PN and LN were observed, but no group difference was detected. This suggest that learning a second language before 5 years of age leads to native-like phoneme discrimination, and that bilinguals develop increased attentional sensitivity to speech sound distinctions as a maturational effect.