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Infant speech perception

Research Achievements

Infant speech perception

IGERT Trainee Carolyn Quam (Psychology) published a paper (Quam & Swingley, 2010, Journal of Memory and Language) on infant speech perception. She writes "Phonology provides a system by which a limited number of types of phonetic variation can signal communicative intentions at multiple levels of linguistic analysis. Because phonologies vary from language to language, acquiring the phonology of a language demands learning to attribute phonetic variation appropriately. Here, we studied the case of pitch-contour variation. In English, pitch contour does not differentiate words, but serves other functions, like marking yes/no questions and conveying emotions. We show that, in accordance with their phonology, English-speaking adults and 2-year-olds do not interpret salient pitch contours as inherent to novel words...By age 2, children already apply their knowledge of English phonology to interpret phonetic consistencies in their experience with words."