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FROM SOUND TO MEANING: QUANTIFYING CONTEXTUAL EFFECTS IN RESOLUTION OF L2 PHONOLEXICAL AMBIGUITY
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In order to comprehend speech, listeners have to combine low-level phonetic information about the incoming auditory signal with higher-order contextual information. Unlike native listeners, nonnative listeners perceive speech sounds through the prism of their native language, which sometimes results in perceptual ambiguity in their second language. Across four experiments, both behavioral and electrophysiological, this dissertation provides evidence that such perceptual ambiguity causes words to become temporarily indistinguishable. To comprehend meaning, nonnative listeners disambiguate words through accessing their semantic, syntactic and morphological characteristics. Syntactic and semantic cues produce a stronger context effect than morphological cues in both native and nonnative groups. Thus, although nonnative representations may differ in that they may lack phonological specification, the mechanisms associated with the use of higher-order contextual information for meaning resolution in auditory sentence comprehension are essentially the same in the native and nonnative languages