We investigated how listeners of two unrelated languages, Korean and Dutch, process phonologically viable and nonviable consonants spoken in Dutch and American English. To Korean listeners, released final stops are nonviable because word-final stops in Korean are never released in words spoken in isolation, but to Dutch listeners, unreleased word-final stops are nonviable because word-final stops in Dutch are generally released in words spoken in isolation. Two phoneme monitoring experiments showed a phonological effect on both Dutch and English stimuli: Korean listeners detected the unreleased stops more rapidly whereas Dutch listeners detected the released stops more rapidly and/or more accurately. The Koreans, however, detected released stops more accurately than unreleased stops, but only in the non-native language they were familiar with (English). The results suggest that, in non-native speech perception, phonological legitimacy in the native language can be more important than the richness of phonetic information, though familiarity with phonetic detail in the non-native language can also improve listening performance.

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