Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Cognitive Science

Committee Chair

Frank Andrasik


Discrimination between contrasting speech sounds is essential to understanding a language proficiently. Native English speakers distinguish between /l/ and /r/ phonemes, but native Japanese speakers often lack this ability because of differences in language properties and listener experience with the English language. Event-related brain potentials (ERPs) provide one way to examine pre-attentive language processing. ERPs occur in response to sensory events--in our case, auditory stimuli. In this investigation we focused on a specific response--the mismatch negativity (MMN)--which is an automatic brain response to acoustic changes. We compared the size and timing of the MMN in native English and native Japanese speakers to spoken /la/ and /ra/ consonant-vowel clusters. The MMN is typically large in native English speakers, and we predicted that it would be similar in native Japanese speakers who acquired English early in life. In contrast, we hypothesized that the MMN would be progressively smaller in native Japanese speakers who acquired English more recently. Although we originally intended to classify native Japanese speakers into multiple groups according to English experience, recruitment difficulties prevented us from obtaining a sufficient sample size. MMN latencies were significantly shorter in native English than native Japanese speakers. Although MMN amplitudes were larger in native English speakers, this pattern was not significant. Although not significant, a regression indicated an inverse relationship between MMN amplitude and years of experience with English in native Japanese speakers. The lack of a positive relationship went against our predictions.


Undergraduate Honor's Thesis

Library Comment

Honors thesis originally submitted to the Local University of Memphis Honor’s Thesis Repository.


Data is provided by the student.