ISCA Workshop on Plasticity in Speech Perception (PSP2005)

Senate House, London, UK
June 15-17, 2005

Evidence for Plasticity in Second Language (L2) Speech Acquisition

James E. Flege

University of Alabama at Birmingham, AL, USA

This talk will summarize research examining the production and perception of phonetic segments in a second language (L2). It is by now well established that children (early learners) eventually show more native-like performance than adolescents and adults (late learners). However, the early-late differences observed in L2 speech research cannot be adequately explained as arising from maturational constraints (the critical period hypothesis). Close examination often reveals differences between early learners and L2 native speakers; conversely, some late learners show relatively native-like performance in the L2. Also, it is now clear that language use patterns exert a strong effect on L2 performance, both for early and late learners. Thus biology (in the form of maturational state at the time of first exposure to the L2) is not destiny! The talk will focus on the issue of inter-subject variability in L2 research. It will discuss the implications of this variability for models that attempt to account for age effects on L2 speech learning.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Flege, James E. (2005): "Evidence for plasticity in second language (L2) speech acquisition", In PSP2005, 1-20.