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


In this study, we aim to better understand whether and to what extent speech perception and production are related within individuals by examining 1) whether individual listeners’ perceptual cue weights are related to their patterns of phonetic imitation and 2) what mechanisms are at work when speakers imitate speech sounds. Twenty-three native speakers of English completed a two-alternative forced-choice identification task on the English /ɛ/-/æ/ contrast varying orthogonally in vowel formants and duration to determine their perceptual cue weights. They also completed a baseline production of word readings followed by an imitation task on a selective sampling of 9 stimuli from the cue weighting task and also stimuli of 3 extended and 3 reduced vowel durations. Results suggest an interplay between phonological influence and perceptual salience in phonetic imitation. That is, phonetic imitation is mediated by a low-level cognitive process involving a strong link between perception and production as evidenced in imitation of vowel duration. As indicated by imitation of spectral quality, however, this study also suggests that imitation can be modulated by a high-level linguistic component such as phonological contrasts, which is a selective rather than automatic process.

Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology, Gwangju, South Korea