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Differential Difficulties in Perception of Tashlhiyt Berber Consonant Quantity Contrasts by Native Tashlhiyt Listeners vs. Berber-Naïve French Listeners

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      In a discrimination experiment on several Tashlhiyt Berber singleton-geminate contrasts, we find that French listeners encounter substantial difficulty compared to native speakers. Native listeners of Tashlhiyt perform near ceiling level on all contrasts. French listeners perform better on final contrasts such as fit-fitt than initial contrasts such as bi-bbi or sir-ssir. That is, French listeners are more sensitive to silent closure duration in word-final voiceless stops than to either voiced murmur or frication duration of fully voiced stops or voiceless fricatives in word-initial position. We propose, tentatively, that native speakers of French, a language in which gemination is usually not considered to be phonemic, have not acquired quantity contrasts but yet exhibit a presumably universal sensitivity to rhythm, whereby listeners are able to perceive and compare the relative temporal distance between beats given by successive salient phonetic events such as a sequence of vowel nuclei.

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      DMDX: a windows display program with millisecond accuracy.

      DMDX is a Windows-based program designed primarily for language-processing experiments. It uses the features of Pentium class CPUs and the library routines provided in DirectX to provide accurate timing and synchronization of visual and audio output. A brief overview of the design of the program is provided, together with the results of tests of the accuracy of timing. The Web site for downloading the software is given, but the source code is not available.
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        Phonetic learning as a pathway to language: new data and native language magnet theory expanded (NLM-e).

        Infants' speech perception skills show a dual change towards the end of the first year of life. Not only does non-native speech perception decline, as often shown, but native language speech perception skills show improvement, reflecting a facilitative effect of experience with native language. The mechanism underlying change at this point in development, and the relationship between the change in native and non-native speech perception, is of theoretical interest. As shown in new data presented here, at the cusp of this developmental change, infants' native and non-native phonetic perception skills predict later language ability, but in opposite directions. Better native language skill at 7.5 months of age predicts faster language advancement, whereas better non-native language skill predicts slower advancement. We suggest that native language phonetic performance is indicative of neural commitment to the native language, while non-native phonetic performance reveals uncommitted neural circuitry. This paper has three goals: (i) to review existing models of phonetic perception development, (ii) to present new event-related potential data showing that native and non-native phonetic perception at 7.5 months of age predicts language growth over the next 2 years, and (iii) to describe a revised version of our previous model, the native language magnet model, expanded (NLM-e). NLM-e incorporates five new principles. Specific testable predictions for future research programmes are described.
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          Language discrimination by newborns: toward an understanding of the role of rhythm.

          Three experiments investigated the ability of French newborns to discriminate between sets of sentences in different foreign languages. The sentences were low-pass filtered to reduce segmental information while sparing prosodic information. Infants discriminated between stress-timed English and mora-timed Japanese (Experiment 1) but failed to discriminate between stress-timed English and stress-timed Dutch (Experiment 2). In Experiment 3, infants heard different combinations of sentences from English, Dutch, Spanish, and Italian. Discrimination was observed only when English and Dutch sentences were contrasted with Spanish and Italian sentences. These results suggest that newborns use prosodic and, more specifically, rhythmic information to classify utterances into broad language classes defined according to global rhythmic properties. Implications of this for the acquisition of the rhythmic properties of the native language are discussed.

            Author and article information

            1Laboratoire Phonétique et Phonologie, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique Paris, France
            2Laboratoire Mémoire et Cognition, Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale Paris, France
            3Haskins Laboratories New Haven, CT, USA
            4MARCS Institute and School of Humanities and Communication Arts, University of Western Sydney Sydney, NSW, Australia
            Author notes

            Edited by: Sophie Dufour, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Aix-Marseille University, France

            Reviewed by: Laurence White, Plymouth University, UK; Angèle Brunellière, Université Lille Nord de France, France

            *Correspondence: Pierre A. Hallé pierre.halle@

            This article was submitted to Language Sciences, a section of the journal Frontiers in Psychology

            Front Psychol
            Front Psychol
            Front. Psychol.
            Frontiers in Psychology
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            01 March 2016
            : 7
            26973551 4771936 10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00209
            Copyright © 2016 Hallé, Ridouane and Best.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) or licensor are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

            Figures: 8, Tables: 4, Equations: 0, References: 83, Pages: 15, Words: 12482
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