Explicit and implicit aptitude effects on second language speech learning: scrutinizing segmental and suprasegmental sensitivity and performance via behavioural and neurophysiological measures

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


External organisations

  • Birkbeck, University of London


The current study examines the role of cognitive and perceptual individual differences (i.e., aptitude) in second language (L2) pronunciation learning, when L2 learners’ varied experience background is controlled for. A total of 48 Chinese learners of English in the UK were assessed for their sensitivity to segmental and suprasegmental aspects of speech on explicit and implicit modes via behavioural (language/music aptitude tests) and neurophysiological (electroencephalography) measures. Subsequently, the participants’ aptitude profiles were compared to the segmental and suprasegmental dimensions of their L2 pronunciation proficiency analyzed through rater judgements and acoustic measurements. According to the results, the participants’ segmental attainment was associated not only with explicit aptitude (phonemic coding), but also with implicit aptitude (enhanced neural encoding of spectral peaks). Whereas the participants’ suprasegmental attainment was linked to explicit aptitude (rhythmic imagery) to some degree, it was primarily influenced by the quality and quantity of their most recent L2 learning experience.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalBilingualism: Language and Cognition
Early online date1 Aug 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 1 Aug 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive individual differences, second language speech, pronunciation, explicit aptitude, implicit aptitude