Discriminability and prototypicality of nonnative vowels

Yasuaki Shinohara*, Chao Han, Arild Hestvik

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined how discriminability and prototypicality of nonnative phones modulate the amplitude of the Mismatch Negativity (MMN) event-related brain potential. We hypothesized that if a frequently occurring (standard) stimulus is not prototypical to a listener, a weaker predictive memory trace will be formed and a smaller MMN will be generated for a phonetic deviant, regardless of the discriminability between the standard and deviant stimuli. The MMN amplitudes of Japanese speakers hearing the English vowels and as standard stimuli and as a deviant stimulus in an oddball paradigm were measured. Although the English-contrast was more discriminable than the English-contrast for Japanese speakers, when Japanese speakers heard the standard stimulus (i.e., less prototypical as Japanese /a/) and the deviant stimulus, their MMN amplitude was smaller than the one elicited when they heard as a standard stimulus (i.e., more prototypical as Japanese /a/) and as a deviant stimulus. The prototypicality of the standard stimuli in listeners' phonological representations modulates the MMN amplitude more robustly than does the discriminability between standard and deviant stimuli.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStudies in Second Language Acquisition
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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