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Mechanisms for Auditory Perception: A Neurocognitive Study of Second Language Learning of Mandarin Chinese

1,2,3 and 3,*
1
Center for Linguistics and Applied Linguistics, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou 510420, China
2
Bilingual Cognition and Development Lab, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou 510420, China
3
Department of Psychology and Center for Brain, Behavior, and Cognition, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Brain Sci. 2019, 9(6), 139; https://doi.org/10.3390/brainsci9060139
Received: 18 May 2019 / Revised: 5 June 2019 / Accepted: 11 June 2019 / Published: 17 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cognitive Neuroscience of Cross-Language Interaction in Bilinguals)
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Abstract

Speech perception is an important early skill for language learning. This study uses functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the relationship between auditory perception abilities and second language (L2) vocabulary learning in an effort to explore behavior-brain correlations. Twenty-one English monolinguals learned 48 auditory Chinese pseudowords over six weeks. Their pre-training abilities in non-linguistic pitch and linguistic tone perception significantly and positively predicted their novel word-learning performance, which correlated with their brain response patterns in the left Heschl’s gyrus. Analyses of regions of interest (ROIs) showed coactivation of the frontal and temporal regions during novel lexical retrieval, and the non-linguistic pitch perception ability modulated brain activations in these regions. Effective connectivity analyses further indicated a collaboration of a ventral stream for speech perception and a dorsal stream for sensory-motor mapping in the L2 network. The ventral stream, compared with the dorsal stream, played a more dominant role in auditory word learning as the L2 proficiency increased. Better pitch and tone perception abilities strengthened the ventral pathways and decreased the reliance on frontal regions. These findings are discussed in light of current models of speech processing and L2 learning. View Full-Text
Keywords: auditory perception; second language word learning; individual differences; functional magnetic resonance imaging; effective connectivity auditory perception; second language word learning; individual differences; functional magnetic resonance imaging; effective connectivity
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Yang, J.; Li, P. Mechanisms for Auditory Perception: A Neurocognitive Study of Second Language Learning of Mandarin Chinese. Brain Sci. 2019, 9, 139.

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