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"The letters of speech: evidence from perceptual learning and selective adaptation" Professor Holger Mitterer (University of Malta, Department of Cognitive Science)

Tuesday, February 02, 2021, 01:00pm

via Zoom

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Professor Holger Mitterer's website

Abstract: While every model of visual-word recognition for alphabetic scripts assumes that letters play an  important role in mediating between the sensory input and lexical representations, no such clear consensus exists for spoken-word recognition. In this talk, I will provide an overview of recent  developments in this unit-of-perception debate. Partly based on results from a perceptual learning  paradigm there is at least a consensus that some form of intermediate unit is involved. However,  the form of this unit is still under debate, with phonological features, articulatory features,  allophones, and phonemes as most prominent contenders. I will argue that the same perceptual  learning paradigm that led to the consensus that some form of intermediate unit is used can also be  used to delineate the form of these units based on patterns of generalization or non-generalization  of learning. A number of experiments using a variety of languages (Dutch, Korean, and German)  suggest that a grain size similar to an allophone might be a good candidate. This line of research  was then questioned by Bowers, Kazanina, and Andermanse (Journal of Memory and Language, 2016) based on findings from a selective adaptation paradigm. However, when properly controlled,  selective-adaptation paradigms also support an allophonic type of unit that serves as an  intermediary between acoustic input and lexical representations.