5pSC9. Acquisition of non-native vowel categories.

Session: Friday Afternoon, May 17

Time: 3:00

Author: John Kingston
Author: Christine Bartels
Author: Jose Benki
Author: Deanna Moore
Author: Jeremy Rice
Author: Rachel Thorburn
Author: Neil Macmillan
Location: Linguist. Dept., South College, Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003


Is the acquisition of foreign phoneme identification determined by native abstract categories [Best, Development of Speech Perception, pp. 167--224 (1994)] or by particular tokens [Pisoni et al., Development of Speech Perception, pp. 121--166 (1994)]? If Best is correct, members of all instances of the same phonological contrast should be equally easy to identify. If Pisoni et al. are correct, then listeners should not generalize to new speakers or contexts. The acquisition by American English listeners of the potentially four front rounded German vowels /y:,y,oe:,oe/ was examined. Speaker and consonantal context were manipulated. Listeners improved with training. Our listeners, in contrast to those of Pisoni et al. (1994), generalized to new speakers and contexts. Contrary to Best's 1994 prediction that identification of the same contrast would be equally easy, it was found in this study that listeners who heard one set of speakers identified the mid tense:lax /oe:,oe/ pair more accurately than the high /y:,y/ pair, and identified the lax high:mid /y,oe/ pair more accurately than the tense /y:,oe:/ pair. Listeners who heard a second set of speakers reversed these inequalities. Thus assimilation makes generalization to novel stimuli possible but does not preclude sensitivity to phonetic differences. [Work supported by NIH Grant No. 5-R29-DC01708 and NSF Grant No. DBD92-12043.]

from ASA 131st Meeting, Indianapolis, May 1996