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The role of phonology in non-native word learning: Evidence from cross-situational statistical learning.

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E-pub ahead of print
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>25/03/2024
<mark>Journal</mark>Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
Number of pages16
Publication StatusE-pub ahead of print
Early online date25/03/24
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Adults often encounter difficulty perceiving and processing sounds of a second language (L2). In order to acquire word-meaning mappings, learners need to determine what the language-relevant phonological contrasts are in the language. In this study, we examined the influence of phonology on non-native word learning, determining whether the language-relevant phonological contrasts could be acquired by abstracting over multiple experiences, and whether awareness of these contrasts could be related to learning. We trained English- and Mandarin-native speakers with pseudowords via a cross-situational statistical learning task (CSL). Learners were able to acquire the phonological contrasts across multiple situations, but similar-sounding words (i.e., minimal pairs) were harder to acquire, and words that contrast in a non-native suprasegmental feature (i.e., Mandarin lexical tone) were even harder for English-speakers, even with extended exposure. Furthermore, awareness of the non-native phonology was not found to relate to learning.