Phoneme categorization depends on production abilities during the first year of life

Abstract : An old-standing debate still not resolved in the field of speech communication concerns the nature of the representations underlying speech perception. On the one hand, auditory theories (e.g., Diehl et al., 2004) claim that the basic units in speech perception are purely auditory whereas the Motor Theory (Liberman et al., 1962; Galantucci et al., 2006) proposes that speech perception involves motor representations. Recently Schwartz et al. (2012), in a perceptuo-motor theory, claimed that perceptual and motor representations both play a role in the processing of speech units. To better understand the development of perceptuo-motor interactions during the first year of life, we examined the influence of speech production abilities on phonemic categorization in infants. We used an intersensory matching procedure in order to evaluate infants’ ability to bind auditory and visual information about a consonant category into a single representation. 6-to 12-month old French infants were familiarized with auditory syllables with different vowel contexts (e.g., /be/-/bi/-/bu). In the test phase, two side-by-side silent videos of faces repeatedly pronouncing consonants in a new vowel context (/ba/ on one side and /da/ on the other side) were presented and looking times (LTs) to each video were compared. In this protocol, infants who are able to extract the common (e.g., labial) gesture in the audio syllables, should be able to relate it to the same gesture in the visual stimuli and should show different LTs for the two test stimuli (/ba/ vs. /da/). Speech production abilities of each of the 6- to 12-month-old infants were assessed using a parental questionnaire. Infants were assigned to one of three production groups, Non Babbling, i.e. infants who did not produce the /b/-/d/ consonants, Canonical Babbling, i.e. infants who produced the consonants with only one vowel (e.g. ‘bababa’ or ‘dadada’), or Variegated Babbling, i.e. infants who produced the consonants with different vowels (e.g. ‘babibu’). We expected better categorization and better auditory-visual association in infants with greater production experience(i.e., infants in the Babbling phase), than in infants with fewer productions (Non Babbling infants). Results showed no main effect of age, however, 9-month old infants showed a significant categorization effect (one-sample t-test p<0.05) whereas 6- and 12-month olds did not. When taking production abilities into account, infants in the Variegated Babbling phase exhibited better categorization abilities that infants in the Canonical Babbling phase or Non Babbling infants. This suggests that greater production abilities are linked to better perception abilities, however this result could be linked to general language abilities. To eliminate this possibility and validate our hypothesis, we plan to test 6-to 12-month old infants using the same procedure with a /v/ vs. /z/ contrast, involving consonants that most French infants should not be able to produce yet. We expect an absence of audio-visual association with this contrast in all infants. The absence of audio-visual association with unproduced consonants together with the occurrence of audio-visual association with frequently produced consonants, would be a strong argument in favor of the development of a perceptuo-motor link during the first year of life. Taken together these studies should allow us to better assess the role of motor knowledge in the development of speech perception.
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Poster
International Conference on Infant Studies (ICIS 2016), May 2016, La Nouvelle Orléans, LA, United States
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M Dole, Hélène Loevenbruck, O Pascalis, Jean-Luc Schwartz, Anne Vilain. Phoneme categorization depends on production abilities during the first year of life. International Conference on Infant Studies (ICIS 2016), May 2016, La Nouvelle Orléans, LA, United States. 〈hal-01489951〉

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