Anne Cutler

Publications

Displaying 1 - 13 of 13
  • 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., & Butterfield, S. (1990). Durational cues to word boundaries in clear speech. Speech Communication, 9, 485-495.

    Abstract

    One of a listener’s major tasks in understanding continuous speech in segmenting the speech signal into separate words. When listening conditions are difficult, speakers can help listeners by deliberately clear speech. We found that speakers do indeed attempt to makr word boundaries; moreover, they differentiate between word boundaries in a way which suggest they are sensitive to listener needs. Application of heuristic segmentation strategies makes word boundaries before strong syllables easiest for listeners to perceive; but under difficult listening conditions speakers pay more attention to marking word boundaries before weak syllables, i.e. they mark those boundaries which are otherwise particularly hard to perceive.
  • Cutler, A., McQueen, J. M., & Robinson, K. (1990). Elizabeth and John: Sound patterns of men’s and women’s names. Journal of Linguistics, 26, 471-482. doi:10.1017/S0022226700014754.
  • Cutler, A., & Scott, D. R. (1990). Speaker sex and perceived apportionment of talk. Applied Psycholinguistics, 11, 253-272. doi:10.1017/S0142716400008882.

    Abstract

    It is a widely held belief that women talk more than men; but experimental evidence has suggested that this belief is mistaken. The present study investigated whether listener bias contributes to this mistake. Dialogues were recorded in mixed-sex and single-sex versions, and male and female listeners judged the proportions of talk contributed to the dialogues by each participant. Female contributions to mixed-sex dialogues were rated as greater than male contributions by both male and female listeners. Female contributions were more likely to be overestimated when they were speaking a dialogue part perceived as probably female than when they were speaking a dialogue part perceived as probably male. It is suggested that the misestimates are due to a complex of factors that may involve both perceptual effects such as misjudgment of rates of speech and sociological effects such as attitudes to social roles and perception of power relations.
  • Cutler, A., Mehler, J., Norris, D., & Segui, J. (1988). Limits on bilingualism [Letters to Nature]. Nature, 340, 229-230. doi:10.1038/340229a0.

    Abstract

    SPEECH, in any language, is continuous; speakers provide few reliable cues to the boundaries of words, phrases, or other meaningful units. To understand speech, listeners must divide the continuous speech stream into portions that correspond to such units. This segmentation process is so basic to human language comprehension that psycholinguists long assumed that all speakers would do it in the same way. In previous research1,2, however, we reported that segmentation routines can be language-specific: speakers of French process spoken words syllable by syllable, but speakers of English do not. French has relatively clear syllable boundaries and syllable-based timing patterns, whereas English has relatively unclear syllable boundaries and stress-based timing; thus syllabic segmentation would work more efficiently in the comprehension of French than in the comprehension of English. Our present study suggests that at this level of language processing, there are limits to bilingualism: a bilingual speaker has one and only one basic language.
  • Cutler, A., & Norris, D. (1988). The role of strong syllables in segmentation for lexical access. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 14, 113-121. doi:10.1037/0096-1523.14.1.113.

    Abstract

    A model of speech segmentation in a stress language is proposed, according to which the occurrence of a strong syllable triggers segmentation of the speech signal, whereas occurrence of a weak syllable does not trigger segmentation. We report experiments in which listeners detected words embedded in nonsense bisyllables more slowly when the bisyllable had two strong syllables than when it had a strong and a weak syllable; mint was detected more slowly in mintayve than in mintesh. According to our proposed model, this result is an effect of segmentation: When the second syllable is strong, it is segmented from the first syllable, and successful detection of the embedded word therefore requires assembly of speech material across a segmentation position. Speech recognition models involving phonemic or syllabic recoding, or based on strictly left-to-right processes, do not predict this result. It is argued that segmentation at strong syllables in continuous speech recognition serves the purpose of detecting the most efficient locations at which to initiate lexical access. (C) 1988 by the American Psychological Association
  • Henderson, L., Coltheart, M., Cutler, A., & Vincent, N. (1988). Preface. Linguistics, 26(4), 519-520. doi:10.1515/ling.1988.26.4.519.
  • Mehta, G., & Cutler, A. (1988). Detection of target phonemes in spontaneous and read speech. Language and Speech, 31, 135-156.

    Abstract

    Although spontaneous speech occurs more frequently in most listeners’ experience than read speech, laboratory studies of human speech recognition typically use carefully controlled materials read from a script. The phonological and prosodic characteristics of spontaneous and read speech differ considerably, however, which suggests that laboratory results may not generalize to the recognition of spontaneous and read speech materials, and their response time to detect word-initial target phonemes was measured. Response were, overall, equally fast in each speech mode. However analysis of effects previously reported in phoneme detection studies revealed significant differences between speech modes. In read speech but not in spontaneous speech, later targets were detected more rapidly than earlier targets, and targets preceded by long words were detected more rapidly than targets preceded by short words. In contrast, in spontaneous speech but not in read speech, targets were detected more rapidly in accented than unaccented words and in strong than in weak syllables. An explanation for this pattern is offered in terms of characteristic prosodic differences between spontaneous and read speech. The results support claim from previous work that listeners pay great attention to prosodic information in the process of recognizing speech.
  • Norris, D., & Cutler, A. (1988). Speech recognition in French and English. MRC News, 39, 30-31.
  • Norris, D., & Cutler, A. (1988). The relative accessibility of phonemes and syllables. Perception and Psychophysics, 43, 541-550. Retrieved from http://www.psychonomic.org/search/view.cgi?id=8530.

    Abstract

    Previous research comparing detection times for syllables and for phonemes has consistently found that syllables are responded to faster than phonemes. This finding poses theoretical problems for strictly hierarchical models of speech recognition, in which smaller units should be able to be identified faster than larger units. However, inspection of the characteristics of previous experiments’stimuli reveals that subjects have been able to respond to syllables on the basis of only a partial analysis of the stimulus. In the present experiment, five groups of subjects listened to identical stimulus material. Phoneme and syllable monitoring under standard conditions was compared with monitoring under conditions in which near matches of target and stimulus occurred on no-response trials. In the latter case, when subjects were forced to analyze each stimulus fully, phonemes were detected faster than syllables.
  • Scott, D. R., & Cutler, A. (1984). Segmental phonology and the perception of syntactic structure. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 23, 450-466. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science//journal/00225371.

    Abstract

    Recent research in speech production has shown that syntactic structure is reflected in segmental phonology--the application of certain phonological rules of English (e.g., palatalization and alveolar flapping) is inhibited across phrase boundaries. We examined whether such segmental effects can be used in speech perception as cues to syntactic structure, and the relation between the use of these segmental features as syntactic markers in production and perception. Speakers of American English (a dialect in which the above segmental effects occur) could indeed use the segmental cues in syntax perception; speakers of British English (in which the effects do not occur) were unable to make use of them, while speakers of British English who were long-term residents of the United States showed intermediate performance.

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