Michelle A. Aldridge
Callier Ctr. for Commun. Disord.-UTD, 1966 Inwood Rd., Dallas, TX 75235
Katrena L. Kneeppel
Univ. of Texas at Dallas, Richardson, TX 75803
The vowels /i/, /y/, /u/, and /unrounded u/ define one surface of the vowel space, whether defined in articulatory or acoustic terms. Adults can give goodness ratings to vowels from the space surrounding prototypic vowels, the prototypic vowels typically obtaining the highest ratings. Does this reflect unlearned structural sensitivities or some averaging process during life? Is it true in newborns? Attractiveness or ``goodness'' was measured by how long newborns listened to first presentation of a set of vowel stimuli. The longer the listen, the better the newborn perceived that vowel to be. The edges of the surface defined by /i/, /y/, /u/, and /unrounded u/ was broken into 40 steps. Twenty newborns (7--33 h) were presented with 21 stimuli defining two edges of the vowel surface, five infants begining at each corner of the vowel surface. The corner, prototype vowels are preferred over intermediates; even /y/ and /unrounded u/ which do not occur in Texas. However, /i/ and /u/, which do occur in Texas, do elicit more listening than the other two corner vowels. Unlearned, structural sensitivities have been affected by experience in infants as young as 7 h of age.