Infant sensitivity to distributional information can affect phonetic discrimination

Jessica Maye, Janet F. Werker, Louann Gerken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

626 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

For nearly two decades it has been known that infants' perception of speech sounds is affected by native language input during the first year of life. However, definitive evidence of a mechanism to explain these developmental changes in speech perception has remained elusive. The present study provides the first evidence for such a mechanism, showing that the statistical distribution of phonetic variation in the speech signal influences whether 6- and 8-month-old infants discriminate a pair of speech sounds. We familiarized infants with speech sounds from a phonetic continuum, exhibiting either a bimodal or unimodal frequency distribution. During the test phase, only infants in the bimodal condition discriminated tokens from the endpoints of the continuum. These results demonstrate that infants are sensitive to the statistical distribution of speech sounds in the input language, and that this sensitivity influences speech perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCognition
Volume82
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2002

Fingerprint

Phonetics
phonetics
infant
discrimination
Statistical Distributions
Speech Perception
Language
frequency distribution
language
Discrimination (Psychology)
Discrimination
Speech Sounds
Distributional Information
evidence
Bimodal

Keywords

  • Distributional information
  • Infant sensitivity
  • Phonetic discrimination

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language

Cite this

Infant sensitivity to distributional information can affect phonetic discrimination. / Maye, Jessica; Werker, Janet F.; Gerken, Louann.

In: Cognition, Vol. 82, No. 3, 2002.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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