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The Effects of Internal and Experience-Based Factors on the Perception of Lexical Pitch Accent by Native and Nonnative Japanese Listeners
Goss, Seth Joshua

2015, Doctor of Philosophy, Ohio State University, East Asian Languages and Literatures.
This dissertation explores the influence of both learner-internal cognitive resources and experience-based factors on the perception of Japanese lexical accent. In Japanese, individual words carry a pitch pattern as part of their phonological form, and these accent patterns form a basic prosodic unit of the language. Cross-linguistic speech perception research has focused by and large on phonetic comparisons of a learner’s native language (L1) with that of the second language (L2). Yet, a large degree of individual variation in L2 Japanese accent perception ability remains unaccounted for, suggesting that some learners—despite speaking the same L1 and possessing similar learning experiences—are better at attuning to new sound categories than others. Couple this with previous findings indicating that accent perception does not develop in parallel with Japanese proficiency level, and that immersion in the target-language environment seems to provide little advantage, and the need for a listener-focused investigation becomes apparent. The present research thus attempted to clarify this reported variation by looking at a range of learner-variables potentially involved in prosodic perception.

Three experiments investigated native and nonnative Japanese listeners’ accent perception ability on correctness-judgment and categorization tasks. Experiment 1 looked at L1 Japanese listeners. Experiment 2 focused on advanced learners of Japanese from two language backgrounds, L1 Chinese and L1 Korean speakers. Experiment 3 measured the development of accent perception over a semester of study in L1 English beginning learners of Japanese in two learning contexts, at-home and study-abroad. In all experiments, participants’ phonological short-term memory capacity and acoustic pitch sensitivity were measured as learner-internal predictors of accent perception ability. Experience-based factors included L1 background, Japanese lexicon size and learning context. Multiple regression analyses were then used to determine the relative contribution of each of these factors on listeners’ perception of lexical pitch accent.

The results revealed that for L1 Japanese speakers, who were very accurate at the correctness-judgment task, acoustic sensitivity predicted perception accuracy. Despite possessing robust knowledge of the phonological properties of their L1, this finding suggests that a basic cognitive resource is still active in L1 accent perception. With the advanced learners, two factors were significantly related to their ability to perceive accent—L1 background and L2 lexicon size. On the other hand, for beginning learners, who were still actively acquiring Japanese, the two basic cognitive resources predicted which individuals made the largest gains in perceptual ability over a semester of study. Thus, for L2 Japanese learners, I posit an acoustic-to-lexical continuum for accent acquisition, whereby beginners are reliant on memory and basic acoustic sensitivity to support their listening performance. However, as I observed with the advanced group, learners increasingly rely on their long-term knowledge of L2 word form in perceiving lexical accent. The pedagogical application of these results is discussed in terms of the increased use of form-focused correction of accent and visual supplements in the language classroom to aid lower-capacity learners’ perceptual development.
Mineharu Nakayama (Advisor)
Mari Noda (Committee Member)
Ludmila Isurin (Committee Member)
205 p.

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Goss, S. (2015). The Effects of Internal and Experience-Based Factors on the Perception of Lexical Pitch Accent by Native and Nonnative Japanese Listeners. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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Goss, Seth. "The Effects of Internal and Experience-Based Factors on the Perception of Lexical Pitch Accent by Native and Nonnative Japanese Listeners." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2015. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 21 Nov 2017.

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Goss, Seth "The Effects of Internal and Experience-Based Factors on the Perception of Lexical Pitch Accent by Native and Nonnative Japanese Listeners." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Ohio State University, 2015. https://etd.ohiolink.edu/

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