Which Acoustic and Phonological Factors Shape Infants’ Vowel Discrimination? Exploiting Natural Variation in InPhonDB

Sho Tsuji, Alejandrina Cristia


A key research question in early language acquisition concerns the development of infants’ ability to discriminate sounds, and the factors structuring discrimination abilities. Vowel discrimination, in particular, has been studied using a range of tasks, experimental paradigms, and stimuli over the past 40 years, work recently compiled in a meta-analysis. We use this meta-analysis to assess whether there is statistical evidence for the following factors affecting effect sizes across studies: (1) the order in which the two vowel stimuli are presented; and (2) the distance between the vowels, measured acoustically in terms of spectral and quantity differences. The magnitude of effect sizes analysis revealed order effects consistent with the Natural Referent Vowels framework, with greater effect sizes when the second vowel was more peripheral than the first. Additionally, we find that spectral acoustic distinctiveness is a consistent predictor of studies’ effect sizes, while temporal distinctiveness did not predict effect size magnitude. None of these factors interacted significantly with age. We discuss implications of these results for language acquisition, and more generally developmental psychology, research.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1468

Cite as: Tsuji, S., Cristia, A. (2017) Which Acoustic and Phonological Factors Shape Infants’ Vowel Discrimination? Exploiting Natural Variation in InPhonDB. Proc. Interspeech 2017, 2108-2112, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1468.


@inproceedings{Tsuji2017,
  author={Sho Tsuji and Alejandrina Cristia},
  title={Which Acoustic and Phonological Factors Shape Infants’ Vowel Discrimination? Exploiting Natural Variation in InPhonDB},
  year=2017,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2017},
  pages={2108--2112},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1468},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2017-1468}
}