Back May 4th, 2023: Talk by Miquel Llompart (UPF)

May 4th, 2023: Talk by Miquel Llompart (UPF)



Miquel Llompart, tenure-track professor in the Department of Translation and Language Sciences at UPF, will give a talk organized by UR-LING.

When: May 4th, 15:30h

Where: room 52.701

Title: "When do second-language learners use challenging phonological contrasts in spoken word recognition? Novel word learning as a controlled testing ground".


Learning a second language (L2) requires acquiring sounds that are not part of the native phonological inventory while simultaneously learning new words that need to be stored in long-term memory. Establishing new phonological categories can be very challenging, especially later in life and in situations in which two or more sounds that are contrastive in the L2 are all perceptually mapped onto the same native language (L1) category, as with English /ɛ/ and /æ/ for native speakers of German (e.g., Bohn & Flege, 1990, 1992). In order to be able to use these difficult L2 contrasts for communication, it is crucial not only that the sounds in question can be distinguished in perception, but also that they are robustly encoded into the lexical representation of L2 words so that they can also contribute towards an effective lexical retrieval. For example, /ɛ/ has to be encoded into the representations for pencil and pentagon and /æ/ into those for panda and panther, such that the auditory presentation of pen- activates the former but not the latter, and the other way around for pan- (see Weber & Cutler, 2004). 

A recurrent finding has been, however, that even when L2 learners perform optimally when asked to perceptually identify challenging L2 sounds themselves, they are very often not able to use this ability when recognizing known spoken words (Amengual, 2016; Llompart, 2021) and when learning new L2 words from auditory input (Hayes-Harb & Masuda, 2008). Interestingly, this disconnect appears to mirror the developmental patterns of infants learning their native language (e.g., Stager & Werker, 1997). Nonetheless, recent research has shown that, when learning new L2 words, adult L2 learners are strikingly effective at exploiting any cues additional to the auditory signal pointing towards the existence of a phonological contrast. These cues can be visual in nature, like orthographic representations (Escudero, Hayes-Harb & Mitterer, 2008) and visual articulatory gestures (Llompart & Reinisch, 2017, Exp. 1), can stem from one’s own active articulation of the words (Llompart & Reinisch, 2017, Exp. 2) or can be derived from the properties of the novel word set to be learned (Llompart & Reinisch, 2020). 

In this talk, I will discuss the findings mentioned immediately above plus those of some of my most recent studies in an attempt to highlighting how novel word learning paradigms i) critically contribute to our understanding of the early stages of non-native word learning, ii) provide key insights on the interplay between lexical and phonological knowledge in L2 acquisition, and iii) have potential implications for pedagogical approaches to L2 phonology and vocabulary learning. Furthermore, I will elaborate on future research directions that I would like to pursue to complement and extend the knowledge accumulated through this line of work.


Amengual, M. (2016). The perception of language-specific phonetic categories does not guarantee accurate phonological representations in the lexicon of early bilinguals. Applied Psycholinguistics, 37(5), 1221-1251.

Bohn, O. S., & Flege, J. E. (1990). Interlingual identification and the role of foreign language experience in L2 vowel perception. Applied Psycholinguistics, 11(3), 303-328.

Bohn, O. S., & Flege, J. E. (1992). The production of new and similar vowels by adult German learners of English. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 14(2), 131-158.

Escudero, P., Hayes-Harb, R., & Mitterer, H. (2008). Novel second-language words and asymmetric lexical access. Journal of Phonetics, 36(2), 345-360.

Llompart, M. (2021). Phonetic categorization ability and vocabulary size contribute to the encoding of difficult second-language phonological contrasts into the lexicon. Bilingualism: Language and cognition, 24(3), 481-496.

Llompart, M., & Reinisch, E. (2017). Articulatory information helps encode lexical contrasts in a second language. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 43(5), 1040.

Llompart, M., & Reinisch, E. (2020). The phonological form of lexical items modulates the encoding of challenging second-language sound contrasts. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 46(8), 1590.

Stager, C. L., & Werker, J. F. (1997). Infants listen for more phonetic detail in speech perception than in word-learning tasks. Nature, 388(6640), 381-382.

Weber, A., & Cutler, A. (2004). Lexical competition in non-native spoken-word recognition. Journal of Memory and Language, 50(1), 1-25.



SDG - Sustainable Development Goals:

Els ODS a la UPF