A paper entitled “Examining the role of phoneme frequency in first language perceptual attrition” (Chang & Ahn, 2023) has been published in the open-access journal Languages.
Abstract: In this paper, we follow up on previous findings concerning first language (L1) perceptual attrition to examine the role of phoneme frequency in influencing variation across L1 contrasts. We hypothesized that maintenance of L1 Korean contrasts (i.e., resistance to attrition) in L1 Korean-L2 English bilinguals would be correlated with frequency, such that better-maintained contrasts would also be more frequent in the L1. To explore this hypothesis, we collected frequency data on three Korean contrasts (/n/-/l/, /t/-/t*/, /s/-/s*/) and compared these data to perceptual attrition data from a speeded sequence recall task testing the perception and phonological encoding of the target contrasts. Results only partially supported the hypothesis. On the one hand, /n/-/l/, the best-maintained contrast, was the most frequent contrast overall. On the other hand, /n/-/l/ also evinced the greatest frequency asymmetry between the two members of the contrast (meaning that it was the least important to perceive accurately); furthermore, /s/-/s*/, which was less well maintained than /t/-/t*/, was actually more frequent than /t/-/t*/. These results suggest that disparities in perceptual attrition across contrasts cannot be attributed entirely to frequency differences. We discuss the implications of the findings for future research examining frequency effects in L1 perceptual change.
This study followed Open Science practices, and all materials and data are publicly accessible via the Open Science Framework at https://osf.io/d43fb/.