The speakers’ accent shapes the listeners’ phonological predictions during speech perception

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Abstract

Highlights

★ ERP study on predictive coding at phonological level shaped by regional accent. ★ Evidence for phonologically precise expectations when operating with native input. ★ Phonologically less specified expectations in a non-native context. ★ Prediction of word forms based on the phonological variability of the context.

This study investigates the specificity of predictive coding in spoken word comprehension using event-related potentials (ERPs). We measured word-evoked ERPs in Catalan speakers listening to semantically constraining sentences produced in their native regional accent (Experiment 1) or in a non-native accent (Experiment 2). Semantically anomalous words produced long-lasting negative shift (N400) starting as early as 250 ms, thus reflecting phonological as well as semantic mismatch. Semantically expected but phonologically unexpected (non-native forms embedded in a native context) produced only an early (∼250 ms) negative difference. In contrast, this phonological expectancy effect failed for native albeit phonologically unexpected target words embedded in a non-native context. These results suggest phonologically precise expectations when operating over native input, whilst phonologically less specified expectations in a non-native context. Our findings shed light on contextual influence during word recognition, suggesting that word form prediction based on context is sensitive and adaptive to phonological variability.

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