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Similarity in the generalization of implicitly learned sound patterns

Cristia, A., Mielke, J., Daland, R., & Peperkamp, S. (2013). Similarity in the generalization of implicitly learned sound patterns. Journal of Laboratory Phonology, 4(2), 259-285.
A core property of language is the ability to generalize beyond observed examples. In two experiments, we explore how listeners generalize implicitly learned sound patterns to new nonwords and to new sounds, with the goal of shedding light on how similarity affects treatment of potential generalization targets. During the exposure phase, listeners heard nonwords whose onset consonant was restricted to a subset of a natural class (e.g., /d g v z Z/). During the test phase, listeners were presented with new nonwords and asked to judge how frequently they had been presented before; some of the test items began with a consonant from the exposure set (e.g., /d/), and some began with novel consonants with varying relations to the exposure set (e.g., /b/, which is highly similar to all onsets in the training set; /t/, which is highly similar to one of the training onsets; and /p/, which is less similar than the other two). The exposure onset was rated most frequent, indicating that participants encoded onset attestation in the exposure set, and generalized it to new nonwords. Participants also rated novel consonants as somewhat frequent, indicating generalization to onsets that did not occur in the exposure phase. While generalization could be accounted for in terms of featural distance, it was insensitive to natural class structure. Generalization to new sounds was predicted better by models requiring prior linguistic knowledge (either traditional distinctive features or articulatory phonetic information) than by a model based on a linguistically naïve measure of acoustic similarity.
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