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Children and adults are often put presented with accents that are outside their realm of familiarity. The purpose of this study was to examine how exposure of preadolescent children to nonnative accents during their linguistic development increases their linguistic flexibility in adulthood. By examining the processes of speech intake, the stages of linguistic development, and the role of experience versus perception, the research clarifies what elements most significantly alter a listener’s ability to interpret unfamiliar speech and during what periods a person is most developmentally available for a a streamline understanding of nonnative speech. This study challenges the argument that direct exposure is the only way to understand nonnative accents and the argument that all adults have the ability to decipher unfamiliar speech. Through exposure which leads to familiarity and the development of mechanisms to isolate essential and nonessential linguistic information, listeners increase their storage of context and speaker-specific characteristics and ability to navigate nonnative speech.
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Virginia Commonwealth University. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program
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