Univ. of Texas at Dallas, Box 830688 GR 4.1, Richardson, TX 75083-0688
Kuhl demonstrated that adults and 6-month-old human infants showed a ``perceptual magnet effect'' for vowel prototypes. Kuhl et al. also showed that Swedish infants do not show a magnet effect for phoneme categories that are not present in their native language. This study demonstrated that the ``perceptual magnet effect'' was also present in human newborns. Newborns of English- and Spanish-speaking mothers were presented phoneme exemplars around the prototypes /i/ and /I/, and also around non-prototypical /i/ and /I/. Neonates of Spanish-speaking mothers demonstrated the magnet effect for the prototype /i/, a speech sound present in their native language, and also for the prototype /I/, a sound not present in their native language. The results suggest that newborns enter the world with ``platonic forms'' for phoneme categories that are influenced by subsequent linguistic experience.