Individual differences in the relation between perception and production and the mechanisms of phonetic imitation


This study uses phonetic imitation to understand more about how individuals perceive and produce speech and to explore the link between the two. We used manipulated stimuli with the goal of more directly probing the link and to test (1) whether individual listeners’ perceptual cue weights are related to their patterns of phonetic imitation and (2) the underlying mechanisms of phonetic imitation. Twenty-three native speakers of English completed a 2AFC identification task followed by a baseline production and a forced imitation task. Perception stimuli were created from productions of head and had recorded by a native speaker of English. Seven steps varying in formant frequency (created with TANDEM-STRAIGHT) were crossed with 7 duration steps (PSOLA in Praat). Imitation stimuli were a subset of stimuli from the perception task plus extended and shortened vowel durations. Our results suggest that phonetic imitation is mediated in part by a low-level cognitive process involving a direct link between perception and production as evidenced by imitation of all vowel durations. However, this study also suggests that imitation is mediated by a high-level linguistic component, i.e., phonological contrasts, which is a selective rather than an automatic process as indicated by imitation of phonologically relevant formant frequencies.

Honolulu, USA