The Perception of Place Cues in a Second Language
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Many researchers have studied second language (L2) speech perception in terms of the perceptual assimilation into first language (L1) sound categories. However, this approach does not always show whether L2 learners perceive and weigh individual acoustic cues in the same way as native speakers, when they show native-like identification/discrimination of L2 sound contrasts. This issue raises a question especially in the perception of place contrasts which have 2 important cues; a consonant and the adjacent formant transitions. The current study examines if the superficial native-like perception of L2 place contrasts indicates the native-like perception of the individual cues and their optimal weighting, by focusing on the perception of English voiceless labiodental and dental fricatives (/f/-/8/) by Japanese native speakers. The experimental results showed that though Japanese native speakers did not perceive a fricative cue as accurately as English native speakers, the two groups were not different in terms of cue weighting. The paper discusses the results in terms of methodological and theoretical issues.