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March 27, 2015
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Jeffery A. Jones

Phonetic perceptual identification by native- and second-language speakers differentially activates brain regions involved with acoustic phonetic processing and those involved with articulator

Neuroimage, 22, 1182-1194.
Callan, D. E., Jones, J. A., Callan, A. M. & Akahane-Yamada, R.

published: 2004 | Research publication | Jones Lab

This experiment investigates neural processes underlying perceptual identification of the same phonemes for native- and second-language speakers. A model is proposed implicating the use of articulatory–auditory and articulatory–orosensory mappings to facilitate perceptual identification under conditions in which the phonetic contrast is ambiguous, as in the case of second-language speakers. In contrast, native-language speakers are predicted to use auditory-based phonetic representations to a greater extent for perceptual identification than second-language speakers. The English /r–l/ phonetic contrast, although easy for native English speakers, is extremely difficult for native Japanese speakers who learned English as a second language after childhood. Twenty-two native English and twenty-two native Japanese speakers participated in this study. While undergoing event-related fMRI, subjects were aurally presented with syllables starting with a /r/, /l/, or a vowel and were required to rapidly identify the phoneme perceived by pushing one of three buttons with the left thumb. Consistent with the proposed model, the results show greater activity for second- over native-language speakers during perceptual identification of /r/ and /l/ relative to vowels in brain regions implicated with instantiating forward and inverse articulatory–auditory articulatory–orosensory models [Broca's area, anterior insula, anterior superior temporal sulcus/gyrus (STS/G), planum temporale (PT), superior temporal parietal area (Stp), SMG, and cerebellum]. The results further show that activity in brain regions implicated with instantiating these internal models is correlated with better /r/ and /l/ identification performance for second-language speakers. Greater activity found for native-language speakers especially in the anterior STG/S for /r/ and /l/ perceptual identification is consistent with the hypothesis that native-language speakers use auditory phonetic representations more extensively than second-language speakers.

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revised Feb 12/08

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