The Distribution of Talker Variability Impacts Infants’ Word Learning
AffiliationUniv Arizona, Dept Psychol
Univ Arizona, Dept Psychiat
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherUBIQUITY PRESS LTD
CitationThe Distribution of Talker Variability Impacts Infants’ Word Learning 2017, 8 (1) Laboratory Phonology
Rights© 2017 The Author(s). This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0).
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AbstractInfants struggle to apply earlier-demonstrated sound-discrimination abilities to later word-learning, attending to non-constrastive acoustic dimensions (e.g., Hay et al., 2015), and not always to contrastive dimensions (e.g., Stager & Werker, 1997). One hint about the nature of infants' difficulties comes from the observation that input from multiple talkers can improve word learning (Rost & McMurray, 2009). This may be because, when a single talker says both of the to-be-learned words, consistent talker's-voice characteristics make the acoustics of the two words more overlapping (Apfelbaum & McMurray, 2011). Here, we test that notion. We taught 14-month-old infants two similar-sounding words in the Switch habituation paradigm. The same amount of overall talker variability was present as in prior multiple-talker experiments, but male and female talkers said different words, creating a gender-word correlation. Under an-acoustic-similarity account, correlated talker gender should help to separate words-acoustically and facilitate learning. Instead, we found that correlated talker gender impaired learning of word-object pairings compared with uncorrelated talker gender-even when gender-word pairings were always maintained in test-casting doubt on one account of the beneficial effects of talker variability. We discuss several alternate potential explanations for this effect.
NoteOpen Access Journal.
VersionFinal published version
SponsorsNIH [F32 HD065382, K99-R00DC013795]; NSF