Auditory-Visual Speech Processing (AVSP) 2011

Volterra, Italy
September 1-2, 2011

Do Infants Detect A-V Articulator Congruency for Non-Native Click Consonants?

Catherine T. Best (1,2), Christian Kroos (1), Julia Irwin (2,3)

(1) MARCS Auditory Laboratories, University of Western Sydney, Australia
(2) Haskins Laboratories, New Haven CT, USA
(3) Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven CT, USA

In a prior study infants habituated to an audio-only labial or alveolar, native English voiceless or non-native ejective stop, then saw silent videos of stops at each place [1]. 4-month-olds gazed more at congruent videos for native and non-native stops. 11-month-olds preferred congruence for native stops but incongruence for non-native ejectives, suggesting language experience biases but does not block detection of non-native A.V speech relations. But as English adults perceive ejectives as deviant stops [2], we asked whether infants detect A.V congruence in non-native phones adults hear as nonspeech, i.e., click consonants [3-6]. 4-month-olds preferred incongruency; 11-month-olds showed no preference. We posit that infants prefer A.V congruency for phones heard as native-like speech; prefer incongruency for phones heard as speech that deviates from native segments; notice extreme deviance earlier (clicks: 4 mo; ejectives: 11 mo); and later treat very deviant phones as discriminable nonspeech sounds [3, 4] that are unrelated to visual speech. Results are at odds with existing AV models, but may be handled by a hybrid of Amodal Articulatory and Intersensory Narrowing views.

Index Terms. infant speech perception, cross-modal, articulatory phonology, non-native contrasts, click consonants


  1. Best, C. T., Kroos, C. H. and Irwin, J. “Now I see what you said: Infant sensitivity to place congruency between audio-only and silent-video presentations of native and non-native consonants”, Proceedings of AVSP (AudioVisual Speech Perception). Hakone, Japan, Sept-Oct., 2010.
  2. Best, C. T., McRoberts, G. W., and Goodell, E. “American listeners' perception of non-native consonant contrasts varying in perceptual assimilation to English phonology”, J. Acoust. Soc. America, 1097: 775-794, 2001.
  3. Best, C. T., McRoberts, G. W., and Sithole, N. M., “Examination of perceptual reorganization for non-native speech contrasts: Zulu click discrimination by English-speaking adults and infants”, J. Exp. Psych.: Human Perception & Performance, 14:45-60, 1988.
  4. Best, C. T., McRoberts, G. W., LaFleur, R., and Silver- Isenstadt, J. “Divergent developmental patterns for infants’ perception of two non-native consonant contrasts”, Infant Behavior and Devel., 18:339-350, 1995.
  5. Best, C. T., & Avery, R. A., “Left hemisphere advantage for click consonants is determined by linguistic significance”, Psych. Science, 10:65-69, 1999.
  6. Brancazio, L., Best, C. T., and Fowler, C. A., “Visual influences on perception of speech and nonspeech vocal-tract events”, Lang. and Speech, 49:21-53, 2006

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Best, Catherine T. / Kroos, Christian / Irwin, Julia (2011): "Do infants detect a-v articulator congruency for non-native click consonants?", In AVSP-2011, 9-14.