The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

MIT Colloquium 9/8 - Alan Yu (UChicago)

Speaker: Alan Yu (UChicago)
Title: Are individual differences in cue weight strategies contrast-specific?
Time: Friday, September 8th, 3:30-5:00 pm
Place: 32-155

Phonological categories are generally defined by multiple acoustic dimensions. Recent studies have found that listeners of the same gender and dialect group give differential weighting to dimensions in phonetic categorization. What factors govern the differences between individuals remain a largely unanswered question. Variability may stem from differences in individual perceptual experience or the influence of some contrast-independent cognitive mechanism that modulates speech processing strategies. This study examines the relationship between perceptual behaviors across three categorization tasks concerning three sets of phonological contrasts in English (i.e. the effects of VOT and f0 on voicing identification, the effects of spectral and duration information on i/ɪ identification, and the effects of vowel on sibilant identification) and show that, while individuals vary in their cue weightings for each contrast, the weight settings across contrasts are not random. Implications of these findings for models of speech perception and language variation and change will be discussed.