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Poster B1, Thursday, August 16, 3:05 – 4:50 pm, Room 2000AB

The interplay between interference control and L2 proficiency in L2 auditory sentence comprehension in the presence of verbal and non-verbal masking

Jungna Kim1, Klara Marton1, Brett A. Martin1, Loraine K. Obler1;1The CUNY Graduate Center

Listening to speech in the presence of interfering auditory stimuli is a well-studied challenge for second language listeners (Krizman, et al., 2017). It is reasonable to assume that the ability to manage auditory interference can be related to the ability to pay attention to the target message and suppress the irrelevant information. The goal of the proposed study is to examine the differential effects of first language (L1) and second language (L2) interference, as compared to non-verbal noise on L2 auditory sentence comprehension, and the role of L2 proficiency in this interference control process. Forty Korean-English bilinguals aged 18-40, who were born in Korea, were recruited from New York City. They had no history of neurological disease or hearing loss. They were divided into two proficiency groups: high vs. low-intermediate. In order to test the effect of different types of auditory interference during L2 auditory sentence comprehension, an auditory sentence comprehension test with the following experimental conditions was created: 1) L2 target sentences with non-verbal interference (i.e., speech-modulated noise), 2) L2 target sentences with L2 interference, and 3) L2 target sentences with L1 interference (-3 dB signal-to-noise ratio). Participants listened to 40 target sentences in each condition and were asked to make a judgment for each sentence whether it was semantically plausible or implausible. The target and interference sentences were presented by a female or male voice; participants were cued by a picture to which voice they should pay attention to in the verbal interference conditions. Accuracy was analyzed using mixed-effects analyses of variance. The experimental conditions and the groups were fixed factors, and the subject was a random effect. Additionally, the interaction between proficiency group and condition was included in the analysis. There was a main effect of both condition (F(1,4) = 3.953, p < 0.01) and proficiency group (F(1,1) = 35.402, p < 0.001). Both groups performed near ceiling on the baseline measures (Conditions 1 and 2), and not significantly worse on L2 targets in the non-verbal noise condition than in English baseline. The high proficiency listeners showed significantly higher accuracy for L2 targets in the L1 interference condition than the L2 interference condition whereas the low-intermediate L2 listeners showed the opposite pattern. The interaction between condition and group was significant in the L1 interference condition only (F(1,4) =11.511, p < 0.001). These findings indicated that bilingual listeners with high and low-mid levels of L2 proficiency were differentially affected by the L1 and L2 interference. The effect of L1 interference was stronger for the lower proficiency L2 listeners than for the high-proficiency L2 group. A possible explanation is that, due to their incomplete linguistic knowledge of L2, they did not have enough cognitive resources to process the information in the L2 distractors when they focused on the target L2 sentences whereas L1 interference may have strongly derailed their attention from the target (Filippi et al., 2012). Our data are consistent with the possibility that achieving higher proficiency in an L2 includes achieving the ability to resist distractor interference.

Topic Area: Control, Selection, and Executive Processes