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Biases in phonological processing and learning

Abstract : During speech perception, listeners are biased by a great number of factors, including cognitive limitations such as memory and attention and linguistic limitations such as their native language. This thesis focuses on two of these factors: processing bias during word recognition, and learning bias during the transmission process. These factors are combinatorial and can, over time, affect the way languages evolve. In the first part of this thesis, we focus on the process of word recognition. Previous research has established the importance of phonological features (e.g., voicing or place of articulation) during speech processing, but little is known about their weight relative to one another, and how this influences listeners' ability to recognize words. We tested French participants on their ability to recognize mispronounced words and found that the manner and place features were more important than the voicing feature. We then explored two sources of this asymmetry and found that listeners were biased both by bottom-up acoustic perception (manner contrasts are easier to perceive because of their acoustic distance compared to the other features) and top-down lexical knowledge (the place feature is used more in the French lexicon than the other two features). We suggest that these two sources of bias coalesce during the word recognition process to influence listeners. In the second part of this thesis, we turn to the question of bias during the learning process. It has been suggested that language learners may be biased towards the learning of certain phonological patterns because of phonetic knowledge they have. This in turn can explain why certain patterns are recurrent in the typology while others remain rare or unattested. Specifically, we explored the role of learning bias on the acquisition of the typologically common rule of vowel harmony compared to the unattested (but logically equivalent) rule of vowel disharmony. We found that in both perception and production, there was evidence of a learning bias, and using a simulated iterated learning model, showed how even a small bias favoring one pattern over the other could influence the linguistic typology over time, thus explaining (in part) the prevalence of harmonic systems. We additionally explored the role of sleep on memory consolidation and showed evidence that the common pattern benefits from consolidation that the unattested pattern does not, a factor that may also contribute to the typological asymmetry. Overall, this thesis considers a few of the wide-ranging sources of bias in the individual and discusses how these influences can over time shape linguistic systems. We demonstrate the dynamic and complicated nature of speech processing (both in perception and learning) and open the door for future research to explore in finer detail just how these different sources of bias are weighted relative to one another.
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Contributor : Abes Star :  Contact
Submitted on : Thursday, November 29, 2018 - 11:03:08 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, October 22, 2020 - 10:19:06 AM


Version validated by the jury (STAR)


  • HAL Id : tel-01939096, version 1



Alexander Martin. Biases in phonological processing and learning. Psychology. Université Paris sciences et lettres, 2017. English. ⟨NNT : 2017PSLEE071⟩. ⟨tel-01939096⟩



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