Anne Cutler

Publications

Displaying 1 - 13 of 13
  • Choi, J., Broersma, M., & Cutler, A. (2018). Phonetic learning is not enhanced by sequential exposure to more than one language. Linguistic Research, 35(3), 567-581. doi:10.17250/khisli.35.3.201812.006.

    Abstract

    Several studies have documented that international adoptees, who in early years have experienced a change from a language used in their birth country to a new language in an adoptive country, benefit from the limited early exposure to the birth language when relearning that language’s sounds later in life. The adoptees’ relearning advantages have been argued to be conferred by lasting birth-language knowledge obtained from the early exposure. However, it is also plausible to assume that the advantages may arise from adoptees’ superior ability to learn language sounds in general, as a result of their unusual linguistic experience, i.e., exposure to multiple languages in sequence early in life. If this is the case, then the adoptees’ relearning benefits should generalize to previously unheard language sounds, rather than be limited to their birth-language sounds. In the present study, adult Korean adoptees in the Netherlands and matched Dutch-native controls were trained on identifying a Japanese length distinction to which they had never been exposed before. The adoptees and Dutch controls did not differ on any test carried out before, during, or after the training, indicating that observed adoptee advantages for birth-language relearning do not generalize to novel, previously unheard language sounds. The finding thus fails to support the suggestion that birth-language relearning advantages may arise from enhanced ability to learn language sounds in general conferred by early experience in multiple languages. Rather, our finding supports the original contention that such advantages involve memory traces obtained before adoption
  • Johnson, E. K., Bruggeman, L., & Cutler, A. (2018). Abstraction and the (misnamed) language familiarity effect. Cognitive Science, 42, 633-645. doi:10.1111/cogs.12520.

    Abstract

    Talkers are recognized more accurately if they are speaking the listeners’ native language rather than an unfamiliar language. This “language familiarity effect” has been shown not to depend upon comprehension and must instead involve language sound patterns. We further examine the level of sound-pattern processing involved, by comparing talker recognition in foreign languages versus two varieties of English, by (a) English speakers of one variety, (b) English speakers of the other variety, and (c) non-native listeners (more familiar with one of the varieties). All listener groups performed better with native than foreign speech, but no effect of language variety appeared: Native listeners discriminated talkers equally well in each, with the native variety never outdoing the other variety, and non-native listeners discriminated talkers equally poorly in each, irrespective of the variety's familiarity. The results suggest that this talker recognition effect rests not on simple familiarity, but on an abstract level of phonological processing
  • Kidd, E., Junge, C., Spokes, T., Morrison, L., & Cutler, A. (2018). Individual differences in infant speech segmentation: Achieving the lexical shift. Infancy, 23(6), 770-794. doi:10.1111/infa.12256.

    Abstract

    We report a large‐scale electrophysiological study of infant speech segmentation, in which over 100 English‐acquiring 9‐month‐olds were exposed to unfamiliar bisyllabic words embedded in sentences (e.g., He saw a wild eagle up there), after which their brain responses to either the just‐familiarized word (eagle) or a control word (coral) were recorded. When initial exposure occurs in continuous speech, as here, past studies have reported that even somewhat older infants do not reliably recognize target words, but that successful segmentation varies across children. Here, we both confirm and further uncover the nature of this variation. The segmentation response systematically varied across individuals and was related to their vocabulary development. About one‐third of the group showed a left‐frontally located relative negativity in response to familiar versus control targets, which has previously been described as a mature response. Another third showed a similarly located positive‐going reaction (a previously described immature response), and the remaining third formed an intermediate grouping that was primarily characterized by an initial response delay. A fine‐grained group‐level analysis suggested that a developmental shift to a lexical mode of processing occurs toward the end of the first year, with variation across individual infants in the exact timing of this shift.

    Additional information

    supporting information
  • Norris, D., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2018). Commentary on “Interaction in spoken word recognition models". Frontiers in Psychology, 9: 1568. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01568.
  • 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.

    Abstract

    Children 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.
  • 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.

    Abstract

    Until 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.
  • 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.

    Abstract

    Background/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., & Norris, D. (2016). Bottoms up! How top-down pitfalls ensnare speech perception researchers too. Commentary on C. Firestone & B. Scholl: Cognition does not affect perception: Evaluating the evidence for 'top-down' effects. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, e236. doi:10.1017/S0140525X15002745.

    Abstract

    Not only can the pitfalls that Firestone & Scholl (F&S) identify be generalised across multiple studies within the field of visual perception, but also they have general application outside the field wherever perceptual and cognitive processing are compared. We call attention to the widespread susceptibility of research on the perception of speech to versions of the same pitfalls.
  • Norris, D., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2016). Prediction, Bayesian inference and feedback in speech recognition. Language, Cognition and Neuroscience, 31(1), 4-18. doi:10.1080/23273798.2015.1081703.

    Abstract

    Speech perception involves prediction, but how is that prediction implemented? In cognitive models prediction has often been taken to imply that there is feedback of activation from lexical to pre-lexical processes as implemented in interactive-activation models (IAMs). We show that simple activation feedback does not actually improve speech recognition. However, other forms of feedback can be beneficial. In particular, feedback can enable the listener to adapt to changing input, and can potentially help the listener to recognise unusual input, or recognise speech in the presence of competing sounds. The common feature of these helpful forms of feedback is that they are all ways of optimising the performance of speech recognition using Bayesian inference. That is, listeners make predictions about speech because speech recognition is optimal in the sense captured in Bayesian models.
  • Cutler, A. (2015). Representation of second language phonology. Applied Psycholinguistics, 36(1), 115-128. doi:10.1017/S0142716414000459.

    Abstract

    Orthographies 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.

    Abstract

    In 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.
  • Cutler, A., Mehler, J., Norris, D., & Segui, J. (1983). A language-specific comprehension strategy [Letters to Nature]. Nature, 304, 159-160. doi:10.1038/304159a0.

    Abstract

    Infants acquire whatever language is spoken in the environment into which they are born. The mental capability of the newborn child is not biased in any way towards the acquisition of one human language rather than another. Because psychologists who attempt to model the process of language comprehension are interested in the structure of the human mind, rather than in the properties of individual languages, strategies which they incorporate in their models are presumed to be universal, not language-specific. In other words, strategies of comprehension are presumed to be characteristic of the human language processing system, rather than, say, the French, English, or Igbo language processing systems. We report here, however, on a comprehension strategy which appears to be used by native speakers of French but not by native speakers of English.
  • Levelt, W. J. M., & Cutler, A. (1983). Prosodic marking in speech repair. Journal of semantics, 2, 205-217. doi:10.1093/semant/2.2.205.

    Abstract

    Spontaneous self-corrections in speech pose a communication problem; the speaker must make clear to the listener not only that the original Utterance was faulty, but where it was faulty and how the fault is to be corrected. Prosodic marking of corrections - making the prosody of the repair noticeably different from that of the original utterance - offers a resource which the speaker can exploit to provide the listener with such information. A corpus of more than 400 spontaneous speech repairs was analysed, and the prosodic characteristics compared with the syntactic and semantic characteristics of each repair. Prosodic marking showed no relationship at all with the syntactic characteristics of repairs. Instead, marking was associated with certain semantic factors: repairs were marked when the original utterance had been actually erroneous, rather than simply less appropriate than the repair; and repairs tended to be marked more often when the set of items encompassing the error and the repair was small rather than when it was large. These findings lend further weight to the characterization of accent as essentially semantic in function.

Share this page