Native Phonemic Contrasts Is Improved Thanks For Specific Laboratory Training Procedures

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Numerous studies conducted in the last three decades have shown that our ability to discriminate non-native phonemic contrasts can be improved thanks to specific laboratory training procedures (e.g., Bradlow et al., 1999; Bradlow et al., 1997; Jamieson and Morosan, 1986, 1989; Lively et al., 1994; Lively et al., 1993; Logan et al., 1991; Sadakata and McQueen, 2013). For example, Bradlow et al. (1997) showed that the forced-choice identification of /r/ and /l/ by Japanese speakers significantly improved after several weeks of intensive training using stimuli produced by multiple speakers of General American English. The improvements in /r/–/l/ identification generalized to novel stimuli produced by new speakers, and were maintained 3 months after completion of the perceptual training procedure (Bradlow et al., 1999).
Our research (Dufour et al., 2007, 2010) has extended this approach to the discrimination of phonemic contrasts that belong to the speakers ' native language, but that do not occur in their regional variety and has asked whether similar improvement can be observed after training. Specifically, we studied the discrimination of the word-final /e/-/ε/ contrast that exists in standard but not southern French, which only has the close-mid /e/ vowel in this position. For example, the words épée “sword” and épais “thick” are pronounced [epe] and [epε], respectively, by standard French speakers, whereas they are both pronounced [epe] by southern French speakers. In a…

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