15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)
Recently there has been support for learning of phonetic categories
based on sensitivity to distributional differences. Distribution-based
approaches are powerful in that they make a priori predictions of discrimination
performance for certain non-native contrasts. In the present set of
studies we examined the limits of a distribution-based approach to
predict phonetic categories of adults. We tested Canadian English,
Canadian French, native Hindi and simultaneous bilingual Canadian English-Canadian
French listeners on discrimination of a dental-alveolar contrast.
These groups of listeners differ on whether they hear a unimodal or
bimodal distribution of dental and alveolar stops during acquisition.
We find that contrary to prediction, listeners exposed to a unimodal distribution show discrimination performance ranging from poor through intermediate to good. Listeners exposed to bimodal distribution, following prediction, show good discrimination performance. We discuss specific problems of applying distribution approaches to acquisition of categories in a natural context.
Bibliographic reference. Sundara, Megha (2003): "Can adult phonetic categories be predicted based on statistical distribution alone?", In ICPhS-15, 2329-2332.