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Speech Perception, Production and Bilingualism
Cognitive Neuroscience of Auditory Perception and Attention
Group of Attention, Action and Perception
Computational and Theoretical Neuroscience
Neuropsychology and Functional Neuroimaging
Grammar and Bilingualism

Subgroup: Speech Acquisition and Perception (SAP)

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Subgroup coordinator: Núria Sebastián Gallés.

Subgroup members:  Volker Ressel, Abeba Roessler, Hernando Santamaría, Anna Basora, Yu Jin, Judith Schmitz, Alba Ayneto. 

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The aim of this group’s research is to understand how humans learn and use languages. We use different experimental approaches to study the ways in which infants, children and adults represent and process speech sounds. A major focus of interest is studying how bilingual infants discover and learn two languages, and how bilingual adults cope with them. More recently, our research has also focused on understanding the origin of individual differences in second-language processing.





Subproject 1: Influences of speech variability in bilingual processing. Bilinguals are usually exposed to more variable and complex input, both because they are exposed to two languages and because in most bilingual environments some of the speakers use their non-native language, which means that the input includes foreign-accented utterances. In the case of typologically related languages (such as Spanish and Catalan) additional variability is observed due to the presence of cognates. Indeed, translations may sound quite similar, although not the same (as, for instance, with the translations of the word chocolate: /tòokolate/ in Spanish and /xukulatә/ in Catalan). The issue here concerns the extent to which these sources of variability induce bilingual-specific ways of representing words in the lexicon (potentially introducing certain processing biases in speech perception). We are testing this hypothesis by comparing Spanish monolingual and Spanish-Catalan bilingual infant and adult populations across different tasks. In these studies we introduce both correctly pronounced and mispronounced stimuli. We are also analysing the sensitivity to indexical variation (speaker change) in speech processing.

Subproject 2. There are considerable individual differences in non-native language processing. In particular, the phonological component is very difficult to master in a non-native language. Following our previous study (Diaz et al., 2008), where we observed a correlation between non-native and native vowel perception, we are presently investigating the genetic and epigenetic contributions to these individual differences. EEG recordings of monozygotic and dizygotic twins are being obtained using the same set of materials as those employed in Diaz et al. As expected, the preliminary data show greater similarities in monozygotic twins than among dizygotic twins. However, these similarities are stronger for vowel perception than for auditory, non-linguistic stimuli.

Figure 1 Wavelet analyses of concordant and discordant twins in the perception of native vowels (deviant stimuli, odd-ball paradigm)


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