Does speech production in L2 require access to phonological representations?

Author(s): Yuki Asano and Bettina Braun


Following the theory of direct realism [1, 2, 3], non-native (L2) speakers should be able to imitate a stimulus without requiring the access to L2 phonological representations. In line with theories of working memory [4, 5], however, they should encounter difficulties in imitating a stimulus with L2 phonological structure at the point once phonetic information decayed and therefore phonological representations are required. In order to test the validity of these claims, the current study investigates L2 speakers’ ability to immitate L2 segmental length contrasts in an immediate vs. delayed imitation paradigm. In the immediate imitation condition, participants should be able to make use of phonetic information taken from the acoustic echo of the stimuli. In the delayed imitation condition, however, phonological representations were required after the decay of phonetic information. The results show that L2 speakers’ performance differed from that of native (L1) speakers in the immediate imitation condition, suggesting that phonological representations had been already activated in the immediate condition. L2 speech production may inevitably require phonological representations. The claim made by the direct realist view was not supported in this study.