Interlanguage intelligibility benefit as a function of talker and listener language background and L2 proficiency

(Tessa Bent and Ann R. Bradlow, Dept. of Linguistics, Northwestern University)

For non-native listeners, intelligibility of non-native speakers (NNS) can surpass intelligibility of native speakers [T. Bent. J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 109, 2472 (2001)]. The present study further investigated how language background and L2 proficiency of talker and listener affect L2 intelligibility. Two Chinese NNS, two Korean NNS and one English monolingual were recorded reading simple English sentences. Listeners were English monolinguals, Chinese NNS, Korean NNS and NNS with other L1s. For native English listeners, the native English talker was most intelligible. For non-native listeners, intelligibility of non-native talkers with high degrees of L2 proficiency was better than or equal to native talker intelligibility. This pattern held regardless of whether non-native talkers and listeners matched in L1. Additionally, the "interlanguage benefit" (i.e. the intelligibility difference between non-native and native talkers) decreased as the listenerís proficiency in English increased. This interlanguage benefit can be accounted for by a combination of a shared systematic interlanguage (when talker and listener match in L1) and the influence of interlanguage universals (when talker and listener donít match in L1). However, both of these factors become less influential as listenersí L2 proficiency develops causing a decrease in the interlanguage benefit. [Work supported by NIH-NIDCD grant DC 03762.]