Speech Perception and Categorization

Bob McMurray & Titia Benders

In: Encyclopedia of Language Development

Speech Perception and Categorization

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  • Languages differ in the phonological and phonetic distinctions used to contrast words. For example, Japanese does not distinguish // and /l/, while English does; and Greenlandic has only three vowels, while Dutch distinguishes 16. Even if languages superficially have the same phonological categories, their acoustic and articulatory instantiation may differ. For example, Hungarian /b/ and /p/ are pre-voiced and unaspirated (respectively), whereas English /b/ and /p/ are unaspirated and aspirated.

    As a result of this variation, infants and children must tune their speech-perception abilities to the acoustic cues and phonological distinctions used in their native language. This development is strongly intertwined with the acquisition of phonological categories. Much research on this has focused on infancy (0-18 months) and led to the implicit consensus that speech perception ...

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