Differential neurobehavioral effectof cross-modal selective priming on phonetic and emotional prosodic information in late second language learners

Chieh Kao, Yang Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Spoken language is inherently multimodal and multidimensional in natural settings, but very little is known about how second language (L2) learners undertake multilayered speech signals with both phonetic and affective cues. This study investigated how late L2 learners undertake parallel processing of linguistic and affective information in the speech signal at behavioral and neurophysiological levels. Method: Behavioral and event-related potential measures were taken in a selective cross-modal priming paradigm to examine how late L2 learners (N = 24, Mage = 25.54 years) assessed the congruency of phonetic (target vowel: /a/ or /i/) and emotional (target affect: happy or angry) information between the visual primes of facial pictures and the auditory targets of spoken syllables. Results: Behavioral accuracy data showed a significant congruency effect in affective (but not phonetic) priming. Unlike a previous report on monolingual first language (L1) users, the L2 users showed no facilitation in reaction time for congruency detection in either selective priming task. The neurophysiological results revealed a robust N400 response that was stronger in the phonetic condition but without clear lateralization and that the N400 effect was weaker in late L2 listeners than in monolingual L1 listeners. Following the N400, late L2 learners showed a weaker late positive response than the monolingual L1 users, particularly in the left central to posterior electrode regions. Conclusions: The results demonstrate distinct patterns of behavioral and neural processing of phonetic and affective information in L2 speech with reduced neural representations in both the N400 and the later processing stage, and they provide an impetus for further research on similarities and differences in L1 and L2 multisensory speech perception in bilingualism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2508-2521
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 10 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the University of Minnesota’s Grand Challenges Exploratory Research Grant and Brain Imaging Research Project Award. We thank Luke LeBeau and Erick Juarez for assisting with the data collection and Erin Diamond for the original data from native speakers of English for statistical comparison.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. All rights reserved.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't


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