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      Statistical and acoustic effects on the perception of stop consonants in Kaqchikel (Mayan)

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          Abstract

          This paper investigates the relationship between speech perception and linguistic experience in Kaqchikel, a Guatemalan Mayan language. Our empirical focus is the perception of plain, ejective, and implosive stops. Drawing on an AX discrimination task, a corpus of spoken Kaqchikel, and a text corpus, we make two claims. First, we argue that speech perception is mediated by phonemic representations which include acoustic detail drawn from prior phonetic experience, as in Exemplar Theory. Second, segmental distributions also condition speech perception: The perceptual distinctiveness of a pair of phonemes is affected by their functional load and relative contextual predictability. These top-down factors influence phoneme discrimination even at relatively fast response times. We take this result as evidence that distributional factors like functional load may affect speech perception by shaping perceptual tuning during linguistic development. This study replicates and extends some key findings in speech perception in the context of a language (Kaqchikel) which is structurally and sociolinguistically different from the majority languages (like English) which have served as the basis of most work in the speech perception literature. At the practical level, our research illustrates methods for conducting corpus-based laboratory phonology with lesser-studied and under-resourced languages.

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          Mechanisms of interaction in speech production.

          Many theories predict the presence of interactive effects involving information represented by distinct cognitive processes in speech production. There is considerably less agreement regarding the precise cognitive mechanisms that underlie these interactive effects. For example, are they driven by purely production-internal mechanisms (e.g., Dell, 1986) or do they reflect the influence of perceptual monitoring mechanisms on production processes (e.g., Roelofs, 2004)? Acoustic analyses reveal the phonetic realization of words is influenced by their word-specific properties-supporting the presence of interaction between lexical-level and phonetic information in speech production. A second experiment examines what mechanisms are responsible for this interactive effect. The results suggest the effect occurs on-line and is not purely driven by listener modeling. These findings are consistent with the presence of an interactive mechanism that is online and internal to the production system.
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            Cross-language evidence for three factors in speech perception

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              Discrimination of non-native consonant contrasts varying in perceptual assimilation to the listener's native phonological system.

              Classic non-native speech perception findings suggested that adults have difficulty discriminating segmental distinctions that are not employed contrastively in their own language. However, recent reports indicate a gradient of performance across non-native contrasts, ranging from near-chance to near-ceiling. Current theoretical models argue that such variations reflect systematic effects of experience with phonetic properties of native speech. The present research addressed predictions from Best's perceptual assimilation model (PAM), which incorporates both contrastive phonological and noncontrastive phonetic influences from the native language in its predictions about discrimination levels for diverse types of non-native contrasts. We evaluated the PAM hypotheses that discrimination of a non-native contrast should be near-ceiling if perceived as phonologically equivalent to a native contrast, lower though still quite good if perceived as a phonetic distinction between good versus poor exemplars of a single native consonant, and much lower if both non-native segments are phonetically equivalent in goodness of fit to a single native consonant. Two experiments assessed native English speakers' perception of Zulu and Tigrinya contrasts expected to fit those criteria. Findings supported the PAM predictions, and provided evidence for some perceptual differentiation of phonological, phonetic, and nonlinguistic information in perception of non-native speech. Theoretical implications for non-native speech perception are discussed, and suggestions are made for further research.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                1868-6354
                Laboratory Phonology: Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology
                Ubiquity Press
                1868-6354
                25 May 2018
                2018
                : 9
                : 1
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Linguistics, University of California, Santa Cruz, CA, US
                [2 ]Department of Linguistics, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, 310058, CN
                [3 ]Independent, GT
                Article
                10.5334/labphon.100
                Copyright: © 2018 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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