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Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience

April 2012, Vol. 24, No. 4, Pages 878-887
(doi: 10.1162/jocn_a_00103)
© 2012 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
When One Person's Mistake Is Another's Standard Usage: The Effect of Foreign Accent on Syntactic Processing
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How do native listeners process grammatical errors that are frequent in non-native speech? We investigated whether the neural correlates of syntactic processing are modulated by speaker identity. ERPs to gender agreement errors in sentences spoken by a native speaker were compared with the same errors spoken by a non-native speaker. In line with previous research, gender violations in native speech resulted in a P600 effect (larger P600 for violations in comparison with correct sentences), but when the same violations were produced by the non-native speaker with a foreign accent, no P600 effect was observed. Control sentences with semantic violations elicited comparable N400 effects for both the native and the non-native speaker, confirming no general integration problem in foreign-accented speech. The results demonstrate that the P600 is modulated by speaker identity, extending our knowledge about the role of speaker's characteristics on neural correlates of speech processing.