Learning to perceive non-native tones via distributional training: Effects of task and acoustic cue weighting

Date
2022-04-27
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Source Title
Brain Sciences
Print ISSN
20763425
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Publisher
MDPI
Volume
12
Issue
5
Pages
1 - 16
Language
English
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Abstract

As many distributional learning (DL) studies have shown, adult listeners can achieve discrimination of a difficult non-native contrast after a short repetitive exposure to tokens falling at the extremes of that contrast. Such studies have shown using behavioural methods that a short distributional training can induce perceptual learning of vowel and consonant contrasts. However, much less is known about the neurological correlates of DL, and few studies have examined non-native lexical tone contrasts. Here, Australian-English speakers underwent DL training on a Mandarin tone contrast using behavioural (discrimination, identification) and neural (oddball-EEG) tasks, with listeners hearing either a bimodal or a unimodal distribution. Behavioural results show that listeners learned to discriminate tones after both unimodal and bimodal training; while EEG responses revealed more learning for listeners exposed to the bimodal distribution. Thus, perceptual learning through exposure to brief sound distributions (a) extends to non-native tonal contrasts, and (b) is sensitive to task, phonetic distance, and acoustic cue-weighting. Our findings have implications for models of how auditory and phonetic constraints influence speech learning. © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

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