Dr. Janet van Hell (Psychology, Penn State)
January 20, 2023
9:00 am

Dr. Janet van Hell (Psychology, Penn State)

"Neural and Cognitive Mechanisms of Accented Speech Processing: The Role of Speaker Identity and Listener Experience"

Dr. Janet van Hell, Professor of Psychology & Linguistics and Co-Director of the Center for Language Science at Penn State

Friday, January 20, 9:00–10:30 a.m. EST, 127 Moore Building and virtually via Zoom

Current everyday communication is a linguistic melting pot. Many learners of English as a second language have a nonnative accent when speaking English. We are also likely to interact with people from different language backgrounds, whose accent may be similar or different from one’s own accent. Although behavioral measures indicate that listeners adapt quickly to nonnative-accented speech, neurocognitive studies have shown distinct neural mechanisms in processing nonnative-accented sentences relative to native-accented sentences. Janet van Hell will present recent behavioral and EEG/ERP experiments that studied how speaker identity and listener experience affect the comprehension of nonnative- and native-accented sentences. Specifically, we studied how listeners’ experience with nonnative-accented speech modulates accented speech comprehension by testing different listeners (young and older adults with little experience with nonnative-accented speech; listeners immersed in nonnative-accented speech; and bilingual, nonnative-accented listeners). We also examined how faces cuing the speaker’s ethnicity create language expectations, and how these biases impact the neural and cognitive mechanisms associated with the comprehension of nonnative- and native-accented sentences. Implications of the findings will be discussed by integrating neurocognitive theories of language comprehension with linguistic theories on the role of socio-indexical cues in speech comprehension.