Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Languages and Cultures

First Advisor

Alexander L. Francis

Second Advisor

Robert M. Hammond

Committee Chair

Alexander L. Francis

Committee Co-Chair

Robert M. Hammond

Committee Member 1

Alejandro Cuza

Committee Member 2

Juana Gil Fernandez

Committee Member 3

Amanda Seidl


The present study examines the perceptual accommodation of the bilabial stop-consonant voicing contrast (i.e., /b/ vs. /p/), in several English- and Spanish-accented contexts, by native Spanish listeners with different degrees of experience with accented speech. In a series of four experiments, we confronted three potential mechanisms for the perceptual accommodation of foreign-accented sounds. According to the first mechanism (phonetic relaxation), listeners accommodate foreign-accented sounds by relaxing the phonetic boundary between native speech sound categories. According to the second mechanism (phonetic calibration), listeners accommodate foreign-accented sounds by adjusting the location of native perceptual boundaries according to the phonetic realization of native categories in the foreign-accented speech context. Finally, according to the third mechanism (phonetic switching), foreign-accented speech sounds are accommodated by switching to a non-native system of phonetic representations that was previously developed through long-term experience with the speech norm of the foreign accent. Experimental results indicate that Spanish listeners did not relax the phonetic boundary between /b/ and /p/ in an English-accented Spanish context (Experiments 1 and 3). However, they accommodated English-accented Spanish voicing differently, depending on their degree of experience with the English-accented speech norm. When Spanish listeners had little or no experience with the English norm, they calibrated the location of the perceptual boundary between /b/ and /p/ according to the Spanish or English phonetic realization of these sounds in the speech context (Experiment 4). Alternatively, when they had a high degree of experience with English-accented speech, they accommodated English-accented Spanish /b/ and /p/ by using an English-like system of phonetic representations that was not predictable from the phonetic realization of /b/ and /p/ in the speech context (Experiments 1 and 2).

These experimental results contribute to a better understanding of the role played by non-native experience in the perceptual accommodation of foreign-accents. In particular, they indicate that native listeners may rely on previous long-term experience with the native language of the foreign-accented speaker to efficiently accommodate foreign-accented speech variability in a different way to which they accommodate speech variability from different native-accented speakers.

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