Ling Lunch 11/7 – Matthew Masapollo (McGill)

Speaker: Matthew Masapollo (McGill)

When: Wednesday 11/7 from 12:35 to 1:25

Title: Infants’ processing of vowels with infant vocal tract parameters

Abstract: Speech communication requires the ability to perceive phonetic categories among discriminably different phones. Prior research shows that infants can recognize phonetic equivalence among vowels produced by and adult men, women, and children. It is unknown whether this ability extends to infant vowel productions, which have unique properties due to the size and geometry of the infant vocal tract. The present study was undertaken to determine whether infants can recognize infant vowel productions as phonetically equivalent to vowels produced by adults and children. Infants (4-6 months) used were tested in a look-to-listen procedure using isolated vowels, /i/ and /a/, synthesized to simulate productions by adult men, women, children and a 6-month-old. On each trial repetitions of the same vowel were played when the infant fixated a checkerboard. Infants were first habituated to productions of /i/ produced by adult male, female and child speakers and were then presented infant productions of /i/ (familiar) and novel /a/ (novel) in four test trials. A novelty effect (novel > familiar) was observed showing that infants recognized the infant /i/ to be similar to the habituation vowel. Infants also looked longer on the first test trial compared to the last habituation trial, demonstrating that they noticed the change in vocal tracts. A preference for infant over adult vowels was confirmed in a second experiment. The findings will be discussed in terms of the emergence of perceptual constancy in the development of vowel perception, raising issues about how and when such knowledge is acquired in relation to the infant’s own productions.

Schedule for the rest of the semester*:

November 14: Robert Henderson & Jessica Coon (McGill), Agent focus in Mayan
November 21: Omer Preminger (Syracuse U), Topic TBA

*Contact us at if you’d like to present.

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