Perceptual learning in speech

Norris, D., McQueen, J. M., & Cutler, A. (2003). Perceptual learning in speech. Cognitive Psychology, 47(2), 204-238. doi:10.1016/S0010-0285(03)00006-9.
This study demonstrates that listeners use lexical knowledge in perceptual learning of speech sounds. Dutch listeners first made lexical decisions on Dutch words and nonwords. The final fricative of 20 critical words had been replaced by an ambiguous sound, between [f] and [s]. One group of listeners heard ambiguous [f]-final words (e.g., [WI tlo?], from witlof, chicory) and unambiguous [s]-final words (e.g., naaldbos, pine forest). Another group heard the reverse (e.g., ambiguous [na:ldbo?], unambiguous witlof). Listeners who had heard [?] in [f]-final words were subsequently more likely to categorize ambiguous sounds on an [f]–[s] continuum as [f] than those who heard [?] in [s]-final words. Control conditions ruled out alternative explanations based on selective adaptation and contrast. Lexical information can thus be used to train categorization of speech. This use of lexical information differs from the on-line lexical feedback embodied in interactive models of speech perception. In contrast to on-line feedback, lexical feedback for learning is of benefit to spoken word recognition (e.g., in adapting to a newly encountered dialect).
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