Online Assessment of Cross-Linguistic Similarity as a Measure of L2 Perceptual Categorization Accuracy

Juli Cebrian, Joan C. Mora

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The effect of cross-linguistic similarity on the development of target-like categories in a second or additional language is widely attested. Research also shows that second-language speakers may access both their native and the second-language lexicons when processing second-language speech. Forty-three Catalan learners of English performed a perceptual assimilation task evaluating the perceived similarity between English and Catalan vowels and also participated in a visual world eye-tracking experiment investigating between-language lexical competition. The focus of the study was the English vowel contrasts /iː/-/ɪ/ and /æ/-/ʌ/. The perceptual task confirmed that English /iː/ and /æ/were perceptually closer to native Catalan categories than English /ɪ/ and /ʌ/. The results of the spoken word recognition task indicated that learners experienced greater competition from native words when the target words contained English /iː/ and /æ/, illustrating a close link between the two types of tasks. However, differences in the magnitude of cross-language lexical competition were found to be only weakly related to learners’ degree of perceived similarity to native categories at an individual level. We conclude that online tasks provide a potentially effective method of assessing cross-linguistic similarity without the concerns inherent to more traditional offline approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number152
Number of pages24
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 23 Apr 2024


  • English vowel contrasts
  • L2 vowel learning
  • cross-language competition
  • cross-linguistic similarity
  • interlingual homophones
  • lexical access
  • perceptual assimilation
  • visual world paradigm


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