Perception of non-native speech

Melissa M. Baese-Berk, Drew J. McLaughlin, Kevin B. McGowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


For nearly 25 years, researchers have recognized the rich and numerous facets of native perception of non-native speech, driving a large, and growing, body of work that has shed light on how native listeners understand non-native speech. The bulk of this work, however, has focused on the talker. That is, most researchers have asked what perception of non-native speech tells us about the non-native speaker, or when interacting with non-native speakers more generally. It is clear that listeners perceive speech not only in terms of the acoustic signal, but also with their own experience and biases driving their perception. It is also clear that native listeners can improve their perception of non-native speech for both familiar and unfamiliar accents. Therefore, it is imperative that research in non-native communication also consider an active role for the listener. To truly understand communication between native and non-native speakers, it is critically important to understand both the properties of non-native speech and how this speech is perceived. In the present review, we describe non-native speech and then review previous research, examining the methodological shift from using native listeners as tools to understand properties of non-native speech to understanding listeners as partners in conversation. We discuss how current models not only limit our understanding of non-native speech, but also limit what types of questions researchers set out to answer. We demonstrate that while non-native speakers capable of shifting their productions to be better understood by listeners, native listeners are also capable of shifting their perception to more accurately perceive non-native speech. We conclude by setting forth a series of recommendations for future research, emphasizing the contributions of native listeners and non-native speakers as equally important for communicative success.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere12375
JournalLanguage and Linguistics Compass
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Linguistics and Language


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