Language acquisition typically involves periods when the learner speaks and listens to the new language, and others when the learner is exposed to the language without consciously speaking or listening to it. Adaptation to variants of a native language occurs under similar conditions. Here, speech learning by adults was assessed following a training regimen that mimicked this common situation of language immersion without continuous active language processing. Experiment 1 focused on the acquisition of a novel phonetic category along the voice-onset-time continuum, while Experiment 2 focused on adaptation to foreign-accented speech. The critical training regimens of each experiment involved alternation between periods of practice with the task of phonetic classification (Experiment 1) or sentence recognition (Experiment 2) and periods of stimulus exposure without practice. These practice and exposure periods yielded little to no improvement separately, but alternation between them generated as much or more improvement as did practicing during every period. Practice appears to serve as a catalyst that enables stimulus exposures encountered both during and outside of the practice periods to contribute to quite distinct cases of speech learning. It follows that practice-plus-exposure combinations may tap a general learning mechanism that facilitates language acquisition and speech processing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Acoustics and Ultrasonics
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)