Blog Archives

Phonological Activation During Visual Word Recognition in Deaf and Hearing Children

Conclusion: Deaf children do not use phonological information during word reading.

from the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research


Reading fluency and speech perception speed of beginning readers with persistent reading problems: the perception of initial stop consonants and consonant clusters

This study investigated the role of speech perception accuracy and speed in fluent word decoding of reading disabled (RD) children. A same-different phoneme discrimination task with natural speech tested the perception of single consonants and consonant clusters by young but persistent RD children. RD children were slower than chronological age (CA) controls in recognizing identical sounds, suggesting less distinct phonemic categories. In addition, after controlling for phonetic similarity Tallal’s (Brain Lang 9:182–198, 1980) fast transitions account of RD children’s speech perception problems was contrasted with Studdert-Kennedy’s (Read Writ Interdiscip J 15:5–14, 2002) similarity explanation. Results showed no specific RD deficit in perceiving fast transitions. Both phonetic similarity and fast transitions influenced accurate speech perception for RD children as well as CA controls.

from the Annals of Dyslexia

Eliminating unpredictable variation through iterated learning

Human languages may be shaped not only by the (individual psychological) processes of language acquisition, but also by population-level processes arising from repeated language learning and use. One prevalent feature of natural languages is that they avoid unpredictable variation. The current work explores whether linguistic predictability might result from a process of iterated learning in simple diffusion chains of adults. An iterated artificial language learning methodology was used, in which participants were organised into diffusion chains: the first individual in each chain was exposed to an artificial language which exhibited unpredictability in plural marking, and subsequent learners were exposed to the language produced by the previous learner in their chain. Diffusion chains, but not isolate learners, were found to cumulatively increase predictability of plural marking by lexicalising the choice of plural marker. This suggests that such gradual, cumulative population-level processes offer a possible explanation for regularity in language.

from Cognition

Bridging the gap between speech segmentation and word-to-world mappings: Evidence from an audiovisual statistical learning task

How are adult second language learners able to segment words and map them to referents in the new language? The present study explores this unresolved issue by using a new multimodal learning paradigm that tracks the first steps in learning new words and their mappings to visual referents. It encompasses a continuous audiovisual stream in which transitional probability of syllables is the only acoustic cue available to segment the stream into words, and a visual stream of object images that accompanies the novel words. The objects are systematically varied in terms of constancy of word-picture association and meaningfulness. The results indicated good word-referent mapping and word segmentation after short exposure to the audiovisual stream. Mapping words with pictures was more effective when the visual referents were meaningful objects. In word segmentation, the consistency of the word-picture association affected segmentation performance. The effect of associative strength on segmentation performance was most prominent with meaningful objects, albeit associative strength did not interact significantly with meaningfulness. The present results suggest that word segmentation and word-referent mapping are closely related processes: word segmentation is affected by the consistency of the mapping relationship and both segmentation and mapping can be accomplished under the same short exposure.

from the Journal of Memory and Language

Plasticity of grammatical recursion in German learners of Dutch

Previous studies have examined cross-serial and embedded complement clauses in West Germanic in order to distinguish between different types of working memory models of human sentence processing, as well as different formal language models. Here, adult plasticity in the use of these constructions is investigated by examining the response of German-speaking learners of Dutch using magnetoencephalography (MEG). In three experimental sessions spanning their initial acquisition of Dutch, participants performed a sentence-scene matching task with Dutch sentences including two different verb constituent orders (Dutch verb order, German verb order), and in addition rated similar constructions in a separate rating task. The average planar gradient of the evoked field to the initial verb within the cluster revealed a larger evoked response for the German order relative to the Dutch order between 0.2 to 0.4 s over frontal sensors after 2 weeks, but not initially. The rating data showed that constructions consistent with Dutch grammar, but inconsistent with the German grammar were initially rated as unacceptable, but this preference reversed after 3 months. The behavioural and electrophysiological results suggest that cortical responses to verb order preferences in complement clauses can change within 3 months after the onset of adult language learning, implying that this aspect of grammatical processing remains plastic into adulthood.

from Language and Cognitive Processes

Communication Disorders in Speakers of Tone Languages: Etiological Bases and Clinical Considerations

Lexical tones are a phonetic contrast necessary for conveying meaning in a majority of the world’s languages. Various hearing, speech, and language disorders affect the ability to perceive or produce lexical tones, thereby seriously impairing individuals’ communicative abilities. The number of tone language speakers is increasing, even in otherwise English-speaking nations, yet insufficient emphasis has been placed on clinical assessment and rehabilitation of lexical tone disorders. The similarities and dissimilarities between lexical tones and other speech sounds make a richer scientific understanding of their physiological bases paramount to more effective remediation of speech and language disorders in general. Here we discuss the cognitive and biological bases of lexical tones, emphasizing the neural structures and networks that support their acquisition, perception, and cognitive representation. We present emerging research on lexical tone learning in the context of the clinical disorders of hearing, speech, and language that this body of research will help to address.

from Seminars in Speech and Language