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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.
AbstractSeveral 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
Cutler, A., & Farrell, J. (2018). Listening in first and second language. In J. I. Liontas (
Ed.), The TESOL encyclopedia of language teaching. New York: Wiley. doi:10.1002/9781118784235.eelt0583.
AbstractListeners' recognition of spoken language involves complex decoding processes: The continuous speech stream must be segmented into its component words, and words must be recognized despite great variability in their pronunciation (due to talker differences, or to influence of phonetic context, or to speech register) and despite competition from many spuriously present forms supported by the speech signal. L1 listeners deal more readily with all levels of this complexity than L2 listeners. Fortunately, the decoding processes necessary for competent L2 listening can be taught in the classroom. Evidence-based methodologies targeted at the development of efficient speech decoding include teaching of minimal pairs, of phonotactic constraints, and of reduction processes, as well as the use of dictation and L2 video captions.
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.
AbstractTalkers 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.
AbstractWe 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 informationsupporting information
Cutler, A., & McQueen, J. M. (2014). How prosody is both mandatory and optional. In J. Caspers, Y. Chen, W. Heeren, J. Pacilly, N. O. Schiller, & E. Van Zanten (
Eds.), Above and Beyond the Segments: Experimental linguistics and phonetics (pp. 71-82). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
AbstractSpeech signals originate as a sequence of linguistic units selected by speakers, but these units are necessarily realised in the suprasegmental dimensions of time, frequency and amplitude. For this reason prosodic structure has been viewed as a mandatory target of language processing by both speakers and listeners. In apparent contradiction, however, prosody has also been argued to be ancillary rather than core linguistic structure, making processing of prosodic structure essentially optional. In the present tribute to one of the luminaries of prosodic research for the past quarter century, we review evidence from studies of the processing of lexical stress and focal accent which reconciles these views and shows that both claims are, each in their own way, fully true.
Cutler, A. (2014). In thrall to the vocabulary. Acoustics Australia, 42, 84-89.
AbstractVocabularies contain hundreds of thousands of words built from only a handful of phonemes; longer words inevitably tend to contain shorter ones. Recognising speech thus requires distinguishing intended words from accidentally present ones. Acoustic information in speech is used wherever it contributes significantly to this process; but as this review shows, its contribution differs across languages, with the consequences of this including: identical and equivalently present information distinguishing the same phonemes being used in Polish but not in German, or in English but not in Italian; identical stress cues being used in Dutch but not in English; expectations about likely embedding patterns differing across English, French, Japanese.
Junge, C., & Cutler, A. (2014). Early word recognition and later language skills. Brain sciences, 4(4), 532-559. doi:10.3390/brainsci4040532.
AbstractRecent behavioral and electrophysiological evidence has highlighted the long-term importance for language skills of an early ability to recognize words in continuous speech. We here present further tests of this long-term link in the form of follow-up studies conducted with two (separate) groups of infants who had earlier participated in speech segmentation tasks. Each study extends prior follow-up tests: Study 1 by using a novel follow-up measure that taps into online processing, Study 2 by assessing language performance relationships over a longer time span than previously tested. Results of Study 1 show that brain correlates of speech segmentation ability at 10 months are positively related to 16-month-olds’ target fixations in a looking-while-listening task. Results of Study 2 show that infant speech segmentation ability no longer directly predicts language profiles at the age of five. However, a meta-analysis across our results and those of similar studies (Study 3) reveals that age at follow-up does not moderate effect size. Together, the results suggest that infants’ ability to recognize words in speech certainly benefits early vocabulary development; further observed relationships of later language skills to early word recognition may be consequent upon this vocabulary size effect.
Junge, C., Cutler, A., & Hagoort, P. (2014). Successful word recognition by 10-month-olds given continuous speech both at initial exposure and test. Infancy, 19(2), 179-193. doi:10.1111/infa.12040.
AbstractMost words that infants hear occur within fluent speech. To compile a vocabulary, infants therefore need to segment words from speech contexts. This study is the first to investigate whether infants (here: 10-month-olds) can recognize words when both initial exposure and test presentation are in continuous speech. Electrophysiological evidence attests that this indeed occurs: An increased extended negativity (word recognition effect) appears for familiarized target words relative to control words. This response proved constant at the individual level: Only infants who showed this negativity at test had shown such a response, within six repetitions after first occurrence, during familiarization.
Tuinman, A., Mitterer, H., & Cutler, A. (2014). Use of syntax in perceptual compensation for phonological reduction. Language and Speech, 57, 68-85. doi:10.1177/0023830913479106.
AbstractListeners resolve ambiguity in speech by consulting context. Extensive research on this issue has largely relied on continua of sounds constructed to vary incrementally between two phonemic endpoints. In this study we presented listeners instead with phonetic ambiguity of a kind with which they have natural experience: varying degrees of word-final /t/-reduction. In two experiments, Dutch listeners decided whether or not the verb in a sentence such as Maar zij ren(t) soms ‘But she sometimes run(s)’ ended in /t/. In Dutch, presence versus absence of final /t/ distinguishes third- from first-person singular present-tense verbs. Acoustic evidence for /t/ varied from clear to absent, and immediately preceding phonetic context was consistent with more versus less likely deletion of /t/. In both experiments, listeners reported more /t/s in sentences in which /t/ would be syntactically correct. In Experiment 1, the disambiguating syntactic information preceded the target verb, as above, while in Experiment 2, it followed the verb. The syntactic bias was greater for fast than for slow responses in Experiment 1, but no such difference appeared in Experiment 2. We conclude that syntactic information does not directly influence pre-lexical processing, but is called upon in making phoneme decisions.
Van der Zande, P., Jesse, A., & Cutler, A. (2014). Cross-speaker generalisation in two phoneme-level perceptual adaptation processes. Journal of Phonetics, 43, 38-46. doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2014.01.003.
AbstractSpeech perception is shaped by listeners' prior experience with speakers. Listeners retune their phonetic category boundaries after encountering ambiguous sounds in order to deal with variations between speakers. Repeated exposure to an unambiguous sound, on the other hand, leads to a decrease in sensitivity to the features of that particular sound. This study investigated whether these changes in the listeners' perceptual systems can generalise to the perception of speech from a novel speaker. Specifically, the experiments looked at whether visual information about the identity of the speaker could prevent generalisation from occurring. In Experiment 1, listeners retuned auditory category boundaries using audiovisual speech input. This shift in the category boundaries affected perception of speech from both the exposure speaker and a novel speaker. In Experiment 2, listeners were repeatedly exposed to unambiguous speech either auditorily or audiovisually, leading to a decrease in sensitivity to the features of the exposure sound. Here, too, the changes affected the perception of both the exposure speaker and the novel speaker. Together, these results indicate that changes in the perceptual system can affect the perception of speech from a novel speaker and that visual speaker identity information did not prevent this generalisation.
Van der Zande, P., Jesse, A., & Cutler, A. (2014). Hearing words helps seeing words: A cross-modal word repetition effect. Speech Communication, 59, 31-43. doi:10.1016/j.specom.2014.01.001.
AbstractWatching a speaker say words benefits subsequent auditory recognition of the same words. In this study, we tested whether hearing words also facilitates subsequent phonological processing from visual speech, and if so, whether speaker repetition influences the magnitude of this word repetition priming. We used long-term cross-modal repetition priming as a means to investigate the underlying lexical representations involved in listening to and seeing speech. In Experiment 1, listeners identified auditory-only words during exposure and visual-only words at test. Words at test were repeated or new and produced by the exposure speaker or a novel speaker. Results showed a significant effect of cross-modal word repetition priming but this was unaffected by speaker changes. Experiment 2 added an explicit recognition task at test. Listeners’ lipreading performance was again improved by prior exposure to auditory words. Explicit recognition memory was poor, and neither word repetition nor speaker repetition improved it. This suggests that cross-modal repetition priming is neither mediated by explicit memory nor improved by speaker information. Our results suggest that phonological representations in the lexicon are shared across auditory and visual processing, and that speaker information is not transferred across modalities at the lexical level.
Warner, N., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2014). Tracking perception of the sounds of English. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 135, 2295-3006. doi:10.1121/1.4870486.
AbstractTwenty American English listeners identified gated fragments of all 2288 possible English within-word and cross-word diphones, providing a total of 538 560 phoneme categorizations. The results show orderly uptake of acoustic information in the signal and provide a view of where information about segments occurs in time. Information locus depends on each speech sound’s identity and phonological features. Affricates and diphthongs have highly localized information so that listeners’ perceptual accuracy rises during a confined time range. Stops and sonorants have more distributed and gradually appearing information. The identity and phonological features (e.g., vowel vs consonant) of the neighboring segment also influences when acoustic information about a segment is available. Stressed vowels are perceived significantly more accurately than unstressed vowels, but this effect is greater for lax vowels than for tense vowels or diphthongs. The dataset charts the availability of perceptual cues to segment identity across time for the full phoneme repertoire of English in all attested phonetic contexts.