Lecture by our guest – Prof. Janet van Hell

Lecture by Prof. Janet van Hell from Pennsylvania State University!

We invite you to attend a lecture by our guest – Prof. Janet van Hell – on Thursday, June 27th, at 2 p.m. (room 2.15, Institute of Psychology, Ingardena 6)!

Title: Understanding accented speech: the role of speaker identity and listener experience

Abstract: Current everyday communication is a cultural and linguistic melting pot. There are hundreds of millions of speakers of English as a second language in the world, so we are likely to encounter speakers who have a foreign accent when speaking English. We are also likely to interact with people from different ethnic backgrounds, who may or may not have a foreign accent. Research has shown that foreign-accented speech can challenge language comprehension. Although behavioral studies suggest that listeners adapt quickly to foreign-accented speech, neurocognitive studies have shown distinct neural mechanisms in processing foreign-accented relative to native-accented sentences. I will present a series of recent behavioral and EEG/ERP experiments in which we examined how speaker identity and listener experience affect the comprehension of foreign-accented and native-accented sentences. More specifically, we studied how faces cuing the speaker’s ethnicity (e.g., Asian face) create language expectations (here, Chinese-accented English), and how these biases impact the neural and cognitive mechanisms associated with the comprehension of American- and Chinese-accented English sentences. We also examined how listeners’ experience with foreign-accented speech modulates accented-speech comprehension by testing different groups of listeners (young and older adult monolinguals with little experience with foreign-accented speech, listeners immersed in foreign-accented speech, and bilingual (foreign-accented) listeners). Implications of the findings will be discussed by integrating neuropsychological theories of language comprehension with linguistic theories on the role of socio-indexical cues and linguistic stereotyping.