First International Conference on Spoken Language Processing (ICSLP 90)

Kobe, Japan
November 18-22, 1990

Towards a New Theory of the Development of Speech Perception

Patricia K. Kuhl

University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA

Among topics related to the acquisition of language, the acquisition of speech is particularly fascinating. Speech units - the consonants and vowels that make up words - are comprised of features. The perception of these features has been studied in very young infants, and this has provided a window on the acquisition of language from its very beginning. Infants display highly sophisticated speech perception skills, leading theorists to emphasize innate mechanisms in infant speech perception. Linguistic experience eventually plays a role, however, because adults from different language environments perceive the same speech sounds very differently. At what age does linguistic experience affect phonetic perception? The new cross-language studies reported here show that exposure to a specific language alters infants' perception of speech by 6 months of age. The fact that phonetic perception is affected by early linguistic input suggests a new model of the development of speech perception.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Kuhl, Patricia K. (1990): "Towards a new theory of the development of speech perception", In ICSLP-1990, 745-748.