Perceptual similarity co-existing with lexical dissimilarity [Abstract]

Weber, A., & Cutler, A. (2003). Perceptual similarity co-existing with lexical dissimilarity [Abstract]. Abstracts of the 146th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 114(4 Pt. 2), 2422. doi:10.1121/1.1601094.
The extreme case of perceptual similarity is indiscriminability, as when two second‐language phonemes map to a single native category. An example is the English had‐head vowel contrast for Dutch listeners; Dutch has just one such central vowel, transcribed [E]. We examine whether the failure to discriminate in phonetic categorization implies indiscriminability in other—e.g., lexical—processing. Eyetracking experiments show that Dutch‐native listeners instructed in English to ‘‘click on the panda’’ look (significantly more than native listeners) at a pictured pencil, suggesting that pan‐ activates their lexical representation of pencil. The reverse, however, is not the case: ‘‘click on the pencil’’ does not induce looks to a panda, suggesting that pen‐ does not activate panda in the lexicon. Thus prelexically undiscriminated second‐language distinctions can nevertheless be maintained in stored lexical representations. The problem of mapping a resulting unitary input to two distinct categories in lexical representations is solved by allowing input to activate only one second‐language category. For Dutch listeners to English, this is English [E], as a result of which no vowels in the signal ever map to words containing [ae]. We suggest that the choice of category is here motivated by a more abstract, phonemic, metric of similarity.
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