Phonological learning results in a generalisation of accent adaptation to novel lexical items.

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This behavioural study investigated how people adapt to a novel accent and how phonological learning works when words are presented in isolation. A previous study by Bujok (2019) used six vowel shifts to create a novel Dutch accent. Bujok’s experiment showed that participants could easily adapt to the artificially created accent, but it remained unclear whether the participants either learned the rules (e.g., the ɪ -> ʏ vowel shift), or memorised the specific items. The present study aimed to replicate and extend these findings, and this was achieved by adding a cross-modal priming task to Bujok’s learning task. In the present study, participants were auditorily presented with primes that contained learned, or related vowel shifts, or primes that were unrelated to the target words. The hypothesis was that, if a learning effect was to be found, the learned and related primes would influence the participants’ reaction times during the lexical decision task. The replicated task demonstrated a learning effect, as the participants clearly improved over time. The cross-modal priming task showed the lowest reaction times for learned primes, followed by higher reaction times for related and unrelated primes. Whereas the related and unrelated primes did not influence the participants’ reaction times, the learned primes clearly did. Thus, we can ascertain that when learning an accent, people do not learn the specific items, but are able to generalise the rules and relate them to novel words.
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