15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

The Effects of Language Experience on the Perceptual Organization of Consonant Categories for English and Mandarin Adults

Feng-Ming Tsao (1), Huei-Mei Liu (2), Patricia K. Kuhl (1)

(1) University of Washington, USA
(2) National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan

Previous studies have shown that the adult speakers experience difficulty in discriminating nonnative phonetic contrasts that are not phonemic in their native language. The present study examined the internal structure of phonetic category representations in adults to seek an explanation for the impact of language experience on phonetic perception. Experiment 1 shows that language experience affects the phonetic category organization of English- and Mandarin-speaking adults for Mandarin affricate and fricative consonants. That is, the perceptual magnet effect (PME), in which perceptual distances are shrunk near good exemplars of phonetic categories but extended near poor exemplars, is evident for native-language but not foreign-language perception. Experiment 2 shows that the PME is demonstrated in English adults when perceiving English affricate and fricative consonants. The results that patterns of perceptual organization differ depending on a listener's ambient language provide support for the native language magnet model of phonetic perception.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Tsao, Feng-Ming / Liu, Huei-Mei / Kuhl, Patricia K. (2003): "The effects of language experience on the perceptual organization of consonant categories for English and Mandarin adults", In ICPhS-15, 849-852.