Edited by Joaquín Romero and María Riera
[Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 335] 2015
► pp. 3–32
Devil or angel in the details?
Perceiving phonetic variation as information about phonological structure
Perceptual attunement to native speech begins early in life, becoming the foundation for efficient native word recognition, yet simultaneously constraining perception of non-native segmental contrasts. It is less well understood how these two sides of native listening handle natural phonetic variations. To recognize a given uttered token as a particular word, listeners must recognize its specific phonetic details as relevant either linguistically or indexically (e.g., talker identity, mood, accent). Perceivers cannot recognize varying tokens of a word by filtering or normalizing phonetic variation. Rather, they must exploit both types of variability to differentiate the words being said from who is saying them. This requires a grasp of two complementary principles: phonological distinctiveness, i.e., phonetic differences that are critical to lexical distinctions, and phonological constancy, which keeps word identity intact across lexically irrelevant variations. Perceptual attunement supports discovery of those principles, fostering word recognition and the ensuing acquisition of morphology, syntax and literacy.
Cited by 7 other publications
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