A Distributional Account of Covariance Effects and Talker Adaptation in Infant and Adult Phonetic Category Recognition


Both infants and adults are sensitive to the non-linguistic features of speech, and this sensitivity impacts speech sound categorization, but with somewhat different effects. While both infants and adults sometimes confuse the non-linguistic for the linguistic and are susceptible to categorization problems when the two covary, adults, on the other hand, are often able to exploit non-linguistic features to improve perceptual categorization. We present a Bayesian account of both adult and infant behavior, arguing that differing levels in linguistic maturity correspond to different models of linguistic structure. The infant’s task is one of structure learning, adults, on the other hand, are estimating parameters for an already established structure.

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