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Choi, J., Cutler, A., & Broersma, M. (2017). Early development of abstract language knowledge: Evidence from perception-production transfer of birth-language memory. Royal Society Open Science, 4: 160660. doi:10.1098/rsos.160660.
AbstractChildren adopted early in life into another linguistic community typically forget their birth language but retain, unaware, relevant linguistic knowledge that may facilitate (re)learning of birth-language patterns. Understanding the nature of this knowledge can shed light on how language is acquired. Here, international adoptees from Korea with Dutch as their current language, and matched Dutch-native controls, provided speech production data on a Korean consonantal distinction unlike any Dutch distinctions, at the outset and end of an intensive perceptual training. The productions, elicited in a repetition task, were identified and rated by Korean listeners. Adoptees' production scores improved significantly more across the training period than control participants' scores, and, for adoptees only, relative production success correlated significantly with the rate of learning in perception (which had, as predicted, also surpassed that of the controls). Of the adoptee group, half had been adopted at 17 months or older (when talking would have begun), while half had been prelinguistic (under six months). The former group, with production experience, showed no advantage over the group without. Thus the adoptees' retained knowledge of Korean transferred from perception to production and appears to be abstract in nature rather than dependent on the amount of experience.
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Choi, J., Broersma, M., & Cutler, A. (2017). Early phonology revealed by international adoptees' birth language retention. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(28), 7307-7312. doi:10.1073/pnas.1706405114.
AbstractUntil at least 6 mo of age, infants show good discrimination for familiar phonetic contrasts (i.e., those heard in the environmental language) and contrasts that are unfamiliar. Adult-like discrimination (significantly worse for nonnative than for native contrasts) appears only later, by 9–10 mo. This has been interpreted as indicating that infants have no knowledge of phonology until vocabulary development begins, after 6 mo of age. Recently, however, word recognition has been observed before age 6 mo, apparently decoupling the vocabulary and phonology acquisition processes. Here we show that phonological acquisition is also in progress before 6 mo of age. The evidence comes from retention of birth-language knowledge in international adoptees. In the largest ever such study, we recruited 29 adult Dutch speakers who had been adopted from Korea when young and had no conscious knowledge of Korean language at all. Half were adopted at age 3–5 mo (before native-specific discrimination develops) and half at 17 mo or older (after word learning has begun). In a short intensive training program, we observe that adoptees (compared with 29 matched controls) more rapidly learn tripartite Korean consonant distinctions without counterparts in their later-acquired Dutch, suggesting that the adoptees retained phonological knowledge about the Korean distinction. The advantage is equivalent for the younger-adopted and the older-adopted groups, and both groups not only acquire the tripartite distinction for the trained consonants but also generalize it to untrained consonants. Although infants younger than 6 mo can still discriminate unfamiliar phonetic distinctions, this finding indicates that native-language phonological knowledge is nonetheless being acquired at that age.
Goudbeek, M., Smits, R., Cutler, A., & Swingley, D. (2017). Auditory and phonetic category formation. In H. Cohen, & C. Lefebvre (
Eds.), Handbook of categorization in cognitive science (2nd revised ed.) (pp. 687-708). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
Warner, N., & Cutler, A. (2017). Stress effects in vowel perception as a function of language-specific vocabulary patterns. Phonetica, 74, 81-106. doi:10.1159/000447428.
AbstractBackground/Aims: Evidence from spoken word recognition suggests that for English listeners, distinguishing full versus reduced vowels is important, but discerning stress differences involving the same full vowel (as in mu- from music or museum) is not. In Dutch, in contrast, the latter distinction is important. This difference arises from the relative frequency of unstressed full vowels in the two vocabularies. The goal of this paper is to determine how this difference in the lexicon influences the perception of stressed versus unstressed vowels. Methods: All possible sequences of two segments (diphones) in Dutch and in English were presented to native listeners in gated fragments. We recorded identification performance over time throughout the speech signal. The data were here analysed specifically for patterns in perception of stressed versus unstressed vowels. Results: The data reveal significantly larger stress effects (whereby unstressed vowels are harder to identify than stressed vowels) in English than in Dutch. Both language-specific and shared patterns appear regarding which vowels show stress effects. Conclusion: We explain the larger stress effect in English as reflecting the processing demands caused by the difference in use of unstressed vowels in the lexicon. The larger stress effect in English is due to relative inexperience with processing unstressed full vowels
Cutler, A. (2015). Lexical stress in English pronunciation. In M. Reed, & J. M. Levis (
Eds.), The Handbook of English Pronunciation (pp. 106-124). Chichester: Wiley.
Cutler, A. (2015). Representation of second language phonology. Applied Psycholinguistics, 36(1), 115-128. doi:10.1017/S0142716414000459.
AbstractOrthographies encode phonological information only at the level of words (chiefly, the information encoded concerns phonetic segments; in some cases, tonal information or default stress may be encoded). Of primary interest to second language (L2) learners is whether orthography can assist in clarifying L2 phonological distinctions that are particularly difficult to perceive (e.g., where one native-language phonemic category captures two L2 categories). A review of spoken-word recognition evidence suggests that orthographic information can install knowledge of such a distinction in lexical representations but that this does not affect learners’ ability to perceive the phonemic distinction in speech. Words containing the difficult phonemes become even harder for L2 listeners to recognize, because perception maps less accurately to lexical content.
Ernestus, M., & Cutler, A. (2015). BALDEY: A database of auditory lexical decisions. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 68, 1469-1488. doi:10.1080/17470218.2014.984730.
AbstractIn an auditory lexical decision experiment, 5,541 spoken content words and pseudo-words were presented to 20 native speakers of Dutch. The words vary in phonological makeup and in number of syllables and stress pattern, and are further representative of the native Dutch vocabulary in that most are morphologically complex, comprising two stems or one stem plus derivational and inflectional suffixes, with inflections representing both regular and irregular paradigms; the pseudo-words were matched in these respects to the real words. The BALDEY data file includes response times and accuracy rates, with for each item morphological information plus phonological and acoustic information derived from automatic phonemic segmentation of the stimuli. Two initial analyses illustrate how this data set can be used. First, we discuss several measures of the point at which a word has no further neighbors, and compare the degree to which each measure predicts our lexical decision response outcomes. Second, we investigate how well four different measures of frequency of occurrence (from written corpora, spoken corpora, subtitles and frequency ratings by 70 participants) predict the same outcomes. These analyses motivate general conclusions about the auditory lexical decision task. The (publicly available) BALDEY database lends itself to many further analyses.
Broersma, M., & Cutler, A. (2008). Phantom word activation in L2. System, 36(1), 22-34. doi:10.1016/j.system.2007.11.003.
AbstractL2 listening can involve the phantom activation of words which are not actually in the input. All spoken-word recognition involves multiple concurrent activation of word candidates, with selection of the correct words achieved by a process of competition between them. L2 listening involves more such activation than L1 listening, and we report two studies illustrating this. First, in a lexical decision study, L2 listeners accepted (but L1 listeners did not accept) spoken non-words such as groof or flide as real English words. Second, a priming study demonstrated that the same spoken non-words made recognition of the real words groove, flight easier for L2 (but not L1) listeners, suggesting that, for the L2 listeners only, these real words had been activated by the spoken non-word input. We propose that further understanding of the activation and competition process in L2 lexical processing could lead to new understanding of L2 listening difficulty.
Cutler, A. (2008). The abstract representations in speech processing. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 61(11), 1601-1619. doi:10.1080/13803390802218542.
AbstractSpeech processing by human listeners derives meaning from acoustic input via intermediate steps involving abstract representations of what has been heard. Recent results from several lines of research are here brought together to shed light on the nature and role of these representations. In spoken-word recognition, representations of phonological form and of conceptual content are dissociable. This follows from the independence of patterns of priming for a word's form and its meaning. The nature of the phonological-form representations is determined not only by acoustic-phonetic input but also by other sources of information, including metalinguistic knowledge. This follows from evidence that listeners can store two forms as different without showing any evidence of being able to detect the difference in question when they listen to speech. The lexical representations are in turn separate from prelexical representations, which are also abstract in nature. This follows from evidence that perceptual learning about speaker-specific phoneme realization, induced on the basis of a few words, generalizes across the whole lexicon to inform the recognition of all words containing the same phoneme. The efficiency of human speech processing has its basis in the rapid execution of operations over abstract representations.
Cutler, A., Garcia Lecumberri, M. L., & Cooke, M. (2008). Consonant identification in noise by native and non-native listeners: Effects of local context. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 124(2), 1264-1268. doi:10.1121/1.2946707.
AbstractSpeech recognition in noise is harder in second (L2) than first languages (L1). This could be because noise disrupts speech processing more in L2 than L1, or because L1 listeners recover better though disruption is equivalent. Two similar prior studies produced discrepant results: Equivalent noise effects for L1 and L2 (Dutch) listeners, versus larger effects for L2 (Spanish) than L1. To explain this, the latter experiment was presented to listeners from the former population. Larger noise effects on consonant identification emerged for L2 (Dutch) than L1 listeners, suggesting that task factors rather than L2 population differences underlie the results discrepancy.
Goudbeek, M., Cutler, A., & Smits, R. (2008). Supervised and unsupervised learning of multidimensionally varying nonnative speech categories. Speech Communication, 50(2), 109-125. doi:10.1016/j.specom.2007.07.003.
AbstractThe acquisition of novel phonetic categories is hypothesized to be affected by the distributional properties of the input, the relation of the new categories to the native phonology, and the availability of supervision (feedback). These factors were examined in four experiments in which listeners were presented with novel categories based on vowels of Dutch. Distribution was varied such that the categorization depended on the single dimension duration, the single dimension frequency, or both dimensions at once. Listeners were clearly sensitive to the distributional information, but unidimensional contrasts proved easier to learn than multidimensional. The native phonology was varied by comparing Spanish versus American English listeners. Spanish listeners found categorization by frequency easier than categorization by duration, but this was not true of American listeners, whose native vowel system makes more use of duration-based distinctions. Finally, feedback was either available or not; this comparison showed supervised learning to be significantly superior to unsupervised learning.
Kim, J., Davis, C., & Cutler, A. (2008). Perceptual tests of rhythmic similarity: II. Syllable rhythm. Language and Speech, 51(4), 343-359. doi:10.1177/0023830908099069.
AbstractTo segment continuous speech into its component words, listeners make use of language rhythm; because rhythm differs across languages, so do the segmentation procedures which listeners use. For each of stress-, syllable-and mora-based rhythmic structure, perceptual experiments have led to the discovery of corresponding segmentation procedures. In the case of mora-based rhythm, similar segmentation has been demonstrated in the otherwise unrelated languages Japanese and Telugu; segmentation based on syllable rhythm, however, has been previously demonstrated only for European languages from the Romance family. We here report two target detection experiments in which Korean listeners, presented with speech in Korean and in French, displayed patterns of segmentation like those previously observed in analogous experiments with French listeners. The Korean listeners' accuracy in detecting word-initial target fragments in either language was significantly higher when the fragments corresponded exactly to a syllable in the input than when the fragments were smaller or larger than a syllable. We conclude that Korean and French listeners can call on similar procedures for segmenting speech, and we further propose that perceptual tests of speech segmentation provide a valuable accompaniment to acoustic analyses for establishing languages' rhythmic class membership.
Kooijman, V., Johnson, E. K., & Cutler, A. (2008). Reflections on reflections of infant word recognition. In A. D. Friederici, & G. Thierry (
Eds.), Early language development: Bridging brain and behaviour (pp. 91-114). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Murty, L., Otake, T., & Cutler, A. (2007). Perceptual tests of rhythmic similarity: I. Mora Rhythm. Language and Speech, 50(1), 77-99. doi:10.1177/00238309070500010401.
AbstractListeners rely on native-language rhythm in segmenting speech; in different languages, stress-, syllable- or mora-based rhythm is exploited. The rhythmic similarity hypothesis holds that where two languages have similar rhythm, listeners of each language should segment their own and the other language similarly. Such similarity in listening was previously observed only for related languages (English-Dutch; French-Spanish). We now report three experiments in which speakers of Telugu, a Dravidian language unrelated to Japanese but similar to it in crucial aspects of rhythmic structure, heard speech in Japanese and in their own language, and Japanese listeners heard Telugu. For the Telugu listeners, detection of target sequences in Japanese speech was harder when target boundaries mismatched mora boundaries, exactly the pattern that Japanese listeners earlier exhibited with Japanese and other languages. The same results appeared when Japanese listeners heard Telugu speech containing only codas permissible in Japanese. Telugu listeners' results with Telugu speech were mixed, but the overall pattern revealed correspondences between the response patterns of the two listener groups, as predicted by the rhythmic similarity hypothesis. Telugu and Japanese listeners appear to command similar procedures for speech segmentation, further bolstering the proposal that aspects of language phonological structure affect listeners' speech segmentation.
Snijders, T. M., Kooijman, V., Cutler, A., & Hagoort, P. (2007). Neurophysiological evidence of delayed segmentation in a foreign language. Brain Research, 1178, 106-113. doi:10.1016/j.brainres.2007.07.080.
AbstractPrevious studies have shown that segmentation skills are language-specific, making it difficult to segment continuous speech in an unfamiliar language into its component words. Here we present the first study capturing the delay in segmentation and recognition in the foreign listener using ERPs. We compared the ability of Dutch adults and of English adults without knowledge of Dutch (‘foreign listeners’) to segment familiarized words from continuous Dutch speech. We used the known effect of repetition on the event-related potential (ERP) as an index of recognition of words in continuous speech. Our results show that word repetitions in isolation are recognized with equivalent facility by native and foreign listeners, but word repetitions in continuous speech are not. First, words familiarized in isolation are recognized faster by native than by foreign listeners when they are repeated in continuous speech. Second, when words that have previously been heard only in a continuous-speech context re-occur in continuous speech, the repetition is detected by native listeners, but is not detected by foreign listeners. A preceding speech context facilitates word recognition for native listeners, but delays or even inhibits word recognition for foreign listeners. We propose that the apparent difference in segmentation rate between native and foreign listeners is grounded in the difference in language-specific skills available to the listeners.
Cutler, A., & Fay, D. (1978). Introduction. In A. Cutler, & D. Fay (
Eds.), [Annotated re-issue of R. Meringer and C. Mayer: Versprechen und Verlesen, 1895] (pp. ix-xl). Amsterdam: John Benjamins.
Cutler, A., & Cooper, W. E. (1978). Phoneme-monitoring in the context of different phonetic sequences. Journal of Phonetics, 6, 221-225.
AbstractThe order of some conjoined words is rigidly fixed (e.g. dribs and drabs/*drabs and dribs). Both phonetic and semantic factors can play a role in determining the fixed order. An experiment was conducted to test whether listerners’ reaction times for monitoring a predetermined phoneme are influenced by phonetic constraints on ordering. Two such constraints were investigated: monosyllable-bissyllable and high-low vowel sequences. In English, conjoined words occur in such sequences with much greater frequency than their converses, other factors being equal. Reaction times were significantly shorter for phoneme monitoring in monosyllable-bisyllable sequences than in bisyllable- monosyllable sequences. However, reaction times were not significantly different for high-low vs. low-high vowel sequences.