ISCA Workshop on Plasticity in Speech Perception (PSP2005)

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

Plasticity in Speech Production and Perception: A Study of Accent Change in Young Adults

Bronwen Evans, Paul Iverson

University College London, UK

This study investigated changes in speech production and perception among university students in England, as individuals adapt their accent from regional to 'educated' norms. Crosslanguage research has demonstrated that plasticity in language learning decreases with age although a certain amount of plasticity is retained in adulthood. The present study investigated plasticity for accents within the same language, as a consequence of both exposure and sociolinguistic factors. Subjects were tested longitudinally: before beginning university, 3 months later and on completion of their first year of study. Subjects were recorded reading a set of experimental words and a short passage. This data was analyzed for changes in production. Subjects also completed two perceptual tasks; they chose best exemplar locations for test words in carrier sentences and identified words in noise. The results demonstrated that subjects changed their spoken accent after experience of attending university. These changes appeared to be linked to sociolinguistic factors; subjects who were highly motivated to fit in with their university community changed their accent more. There was some evidence for a link between production and perception; subjects chose similar vowels to the ones they produced. The results suggested that while subjects were able to adjust their perceptual representations at a late stage in their linguistic development, they were unable to fully acquire the phonological rules that govern how those categories are used.


Bibliographic reference.  Evans, Bronwen / Iverson, Paul (2005): "Plasticity in speech production and perception: a study of accent change in young adults", In PSP2005, 71.