Is there a critical period for phonology?

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crit period for phonology

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Is there a critical period for phonology?
  1. YES
    1. Infants have better speech perception as they can discriminate native + non-native: consonant contrasts, vowel contrasts, visual speech. But by 6-8 months, lose ability to discriminate non-native speech info
      1. Adult learners are probably not able to achieve a native-like accent in foreign lang because can't perceive sound differences anymore = unable to produce it
      2. Accentness in L2 will increase with age of onset - the older you are when you start learning, the more L1 accent you will retain. There's a physical component for pronunciation, and vocalisation requires incredibly fine motor control. So may be neurophysio maturational constraints to acquisition of L2 phonology.
        1. Flege et al
          1. perhaps its psychoperceptual
            1. 240 native Italian + 240 native Korean
              1. Production of English sentences
                1. No accent if age of arrival 0-5. Stronger accent when older age of arrival (15-20)
                  1. Perceptual explanation: continuous mode allows to discriminate small speech sound differences vs categorical mode - all or none basis. eg when identifying phoneme /b/, only pay attention to contrasts to other letters, so ignore subtle differences. Perception of v young children in L1 learning heavily relies on continuous mode, gradually more reliance on categorical.
                    1. cause of accentness = tendency for L2 learners to perceive L2 sounds in phonetic categories in L1 - so when L2 + L! similar + share phonetic space, don't notice subtle differences. Over-reliance on categorical mode makes it hard to establish new phonetic categories for L2.
                    2. Long
                      1. native-like accent impossible unless 1st exposure is quite early, probs ~6yrs in many indivs, about 12 in rest
                        1. Patowski
                          1. similar concs but ages 12 + 15
                            1. 67 non-native speakers of English
                              1. native speaking judges rated written transcripts of ppts speech from tape interviews
                                1. ppts exposed to English before 15 - much higher ratings than those after 15
                                  1. lack of counterevidence to critical period for accent may be due to design of studies. Long + Patowski didn't design studies to specifically assess late learners
                              2. NO
                                1. Neufeld
                                  1. Lab experiment
                                    1. Trained 20 English speaking Canadians to pronounce Chinese + Japanese phrases
                                      1. 1 ppt - native-like ratings in both Chinese + Japanese
                                        1. 2 ppts - in Japanese only
                                          1. Shows native-like mastery of sound patterns of foreign langs is attainable by adults
                                            1. X Results may be due to instructions given to judges - told speakers were Chinese + Japanese immigrants
                                              1. X May just be showing people can mimic foreign phrases - ppts just told to copy phrases - no understanding of grammar
                                                1. But does suggest original perceptual + motor ability that allow children to acquire speech sounds of L1 are still available + can be accessed by adult L2 learners
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