When native contrasts are perceived as non-native: the role of the ear of presentation in the discrimination of accentual contrasts

Amandine Michelas & Sophie Dufour

Journal of Cognitive Psychology, Volume 33, 2021 – Issue 2

In two ABX experiments using natural and synthetic stimuli, we examined the ability of French listeners to perceive accentual variation by manipulating the ear of presentation. A native (/balɔ̃/-/baˈlɔ̃/) and a non-native (/ˈbalɔ̃/-/baˈlɔ̃/) accentual contrasts were tested. The stimuli A and B varied in accent (/ˈbalɔ̃/-/baˈlɔ̃/), in one phoneme (/baˈlo/-/baˈlɔ̃/) or in both types of information (/ˈbalo/-/baˈlɔ̃/). For the non-native contrast, persistent difficulty was found regardless of the ear of presentation. For the native contrast, better performance was observed when the stimuli were presented to the left ear, and thus when the processing was pushed into the right hemisphere. Our findings also showed that the native contrast was processed as a non-native contrast when the processing was pushed into the left hemisphere. More generally, our study indicates that accentual variation at the word level in French is processed as non-linguistic variation.

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