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psych of language lec sept 27.docx

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Psychology 2134A/B
Marc Joanisse

Psych of Language Lec Sept 27 Voice onset time Voicing in stops refers to whether the vocal chords are vibrating or not when you produce that stop Voiceless stop has no vibration Bear vs. pear Bear has a short VOT (relates to a voiced stop consonant) Pear has a long VOT (relates to a voiceless stop consonant) Measurable with respect to what the physical properties of a sound are Can present people with sounds of different VOTs and see how people perceive them (long VOTs are voiceless and short VOTs are voiced) An interesting thing happens between 20ms VOT and 30ms VOT, people start perceiving bear as pear Categorical perception Tape recordings and manipulating them and playing different lengths of VOT and asking people to distinguish between Da and Ta People were consistent in responses, between 0-20 ms as voiced and from 30-50ms as voiceless People were categorical in their perceptions (definitely one category or definitely the other, not ambiguous) Almost like there is an imaginary boundary in our heads of voiced or voiceless People cant distinguish between 0-10 or 10-20 But the 20-30 pair people can distinguish: this is where the boundary lies Cant distinguish between 30-40 or 40-50 Bad at discriminating things in the same category, good at distinguishing between categories Whats going on? People don’t hear sounds as being halfway in between, hear these changes as all or none Very robust effect, we as humans categorically perceive phoneme differences Important because when we hear little phoneme differences that don’t really matter, we ignore them. Robust because it occurs across a multitude of languages and for more than just VOT (glides and whatnot as well) Suggested that people use a specific way for perceiving speech Also suggests that this might be something that is built into our language processor in our brain to make language processing easier, is this learned or innate (born with) Caterogical Perceptions in Infancy Seen in infants, infants could discriminate between Ba and Pa, infants have categorical processing for language, indicating this is innate But… is it really innate? Specifically innate for language? People do perceive lots of things categorically, not just language Not a language specific thing Humans aren’t the only species that categorically perceive things Animal study playing human sounds, saw whether these animals perceived these sounds differently Chinchilla Study Nocturnal, big ears When they heard ba they had to run to one side of the cage and get a food reward, when they heard pa they had to stay still They learned this and could distinguish What if we give them an inbetween? (10-20ms VOT) - grouped it as ba If you gave them 30, 40, 50ms VOT they treated it as pa, the same way humans did Maybe this is a general ability that many mammals have as a result of the way our ears and brains work This is evidence against the theory that this is an innate speech specific thing (if its speech specific why would animals be able to do this) Phonotactics Phonological rules for how you can combine the phonemes in your language Ceratin sequences of phonemes that are phonotactically legal (brick and blick are both acceptable) The way in which some sounds are worded together isn’t phonotactically legal Experience dependent: infants need to learn the phonotactics of their target language Do babies know phonotact
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