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Perceptual Constraints in Phonotactic Learning

Endress, A. & Mehler, J. (2010). Perceptual Constraints in Phonotactic Learning. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 36(1), pp. 235-250. doi: 10.1037/a0017164


Structural regularities in language have often been attributed to symbolic or statistical general purpose computations, whereas perceptual factors influencing such generalizations have received less interest. Here, we use phonotactic-like constraints as a case study to ask whether the structural properties of specific perceptual and memory mechanisms may facilitate the acquisition of grammatical-like regularities. Participants learned that the consonants C₁ and C₂ had to come from distinct sets in words of the form C₁VccVC₂ (where the critical consonants were in word edges) but not in words of the form cVC₁C₂Vc (where the critical consonants were in word middles). Control conditions ruled out attentional or psychophysical difficulties in word middles. Participants did, however, learn such regularities in word middles when natural consonant classes were used instead of arbitrary consonant sets. We conclude that positional generalizations may be learned preferentially using edge-based positional codes, but that participants can also use other mechanisms when other linguistic cues are given.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright APA 2010. This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
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