ISCA Workshop on Plasticity in Speech Perception (PSP2005)

Senate House, London, UK
June 15-17, 2005

Effects of Linguistic Experience on Perception and Learnability of Non-Speech Categories

Jessica Hay, Adrian Garcia-Sierra

University of Texas at Austin, TX, USA

Experience with a native language causes a drastic re-organization of speech sounds into language-specific categories; such that listeners from two languages may hear the same acoustic sound, yet perceive it as belonging to different categories. The present study addresses the question of whether linguistic experience can affect the perception of non-speech sounds in a similar language-specific manner. Although some speech sounds have nonspeech analogues that are processed by similar mechanisms, it has generally been assumed that experience in one domain does not affect processing in the other. Specifically, researchers who use nonspeech stimuli in their studies, wishing to make conclusions about the manner in which speech is processed, have assumed that perception of nonspeech sounds is unaffected by linguistic experience. As a direct test of this assumption, participants from two languages, English and Spanish, which have different mapping between voice-onset-time (VOT) and their voicing categories, are trained to categorize a series of analogous non-speech (toneonset- time) sounds into two groups. The boundaries between the distributions of tone-onset-time (TOT) stimuli are either consistent or inconsistent with known auditory discontinuities. The number of blocks required to reach criteria performance is assessed, and systematic differences between languages are interpreted in terms of the effects of linguistic experience on the learnability of nonspeech categories. This study addresses the additional question of whether learning non-speech categories affects speech perception. Prior to and following training, participants are asked to label a series of VOT stimuli, providing a measure of the effect of non-speech category training on VOT labeling boundary location. Results have implications for the effects of linguistic experience on auditory processing and learnability, and also address whether short-term experience with non-speech stimuli can affect speech perception.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Hay, Jessica / Garcia-Sierra, Adrian (2005): "Effects of linguistic experience on perception and learnability of non-speech categories", In PSP2005, 223-226.