Paguettes & bastries: Novice French learners show shifts in native phoneme boundaries

Marisa Tice, Melinda Woodley


A cohort of five beginning learners of French (L1 English) completed perception and production tasks in French and English on a weekly basis for four to six weeks. All participants were enrolled in a French language immersion program in Paris, France for the duration of the study. As controls, we also tested nine native English speakers who were not learning an L2. Participants regularly completed two perception studies over the six week period: phoneme discrimination and semantic priming, both in English. We find that over the testing period, French and English phoneme perception appeared to be tightly linked to L1 behavior. But, in the 3-5 week L2 exposure range, participants learning French begin to show evidence of category confusion for VOT in English (their L1) due to their L2 exposure to French. These early cross-language effects corroborate recent findings of phonetic shift in speech production of VOT, but demonstrate that the shift may also occur in perception. This suggests that second language exposure may have an effect on first language perception earlier than was previously thought.

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