Jesse, A., & McQueen, J. M. (2011). Positional effects in the lexical retuning of speech perception. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,18, 943-950. doi:10.3758/s13423-011-0129-2.
Listeners use lexical knowledge to adjust to speakers’ idiosyncratic pronunciations. Dutch listeners learn to interpret an ambiguous sound between /s/ and /f/ as /f/ if they hear it word-finally in Dutch words normally ending in /f/, but as /s/ if they hear it in normally /s/-final words. Here, we examined two positional effects in lexically guided retuning. In Experiment 1, ambiguous sounds during exposure always appeared in word-initial position (replacing the first sounds of /f/- or /s/-initial words). No retuning was found. In Experiment 2, the same ambiguous sounds always appeared word-finally during exposure. Here, retuning was found. Lexically guided perceptual learning thus appears to emerge reliably only when lexical knowledge is available as the to-be-tuned segment is initially being processed. Under these conditions, however, lexically guided retuning was position independent: It generalized across syllabic positions. Lexical retuning can thus benefit future recognition of particular sounds wherever they appear in words.