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ERIC Number: EJ845348
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2003
Pages: 28
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0023-8309
A Statistical Basis for Speech Sound Discrimination
Anderson, Jennifer L.; Morgan, James L.; White, Katherine S.
Language and Speech, v46 n2-3 p155-182 2003
Infants under six months are able to discriminate native and non-native consonant contrasts equally well, but as they learn the phonological systems of their native language, this ability declines. Current explanations of this phenomenon agree that the decline in discrimination ability is linked to the formation of native-language phonemic categories. The goal of this study was to evaluate the role of input statistics in learning these categories: our hypothesis was that relative frequency is a determinant of the relative order in which categories are acquired. English-learning infants of two age groups (6.5 months and 8.5 months) were tested on their ability to discriminate non-native consonant contrasts using the Conditioned Head Turn Procedure. As predicted, older infants were worse in their performance on the more frequent coronal stop contrast than on the less frequent dorsal stop contrast. In contrast, 6.5-month-olds discriminated both contrasts equally well. An adult control group tested with an AX task also discriminated both contrasts equally. These results provide preliminary confirmation of the hypothesis that frequency plays an important role in tuning of phonological systems to properties of the native language. A simple attractor model suffices to account for these and previous results on loss of discrimination of non-native-language contrasts and suggests that the technique of measuring graded loss of multiple contrasts, in combination with observation of input frequencies, can offer a powerful method of assessing infants' phonological representations. (Contains 3 tables, 3 figures and 3 footnotes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A