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Lexically guided retuning of visual phonetic categories


Van der Zande,  Patrick
International Max Planck Research School for Language Sciences, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society, Nijmegen, NL;
Language Comprehension Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

Cutler,  Anne
Language Comprehension Department, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
University Western Sydney, MARCS Institute;

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Van der Zande, P., Jesse, A., & Cutler, A. (2013). Lexically guided retuning of visual phonetic categories. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 134, 562-571. doi:10.1121/1.4807814.

Listeners retune the boundaries between phonetic categories to adjust to individual speakers' productions. Lexical information, for example, indicates what an unusual sound is supposed to be, and boundary retuning then enables the speaker's sound to be included in the appropriate auditory phonetic category. In this study, it was investigated whether lexical knowledge that is known to guide the retuning of auditory phonetic categories, can also retune visual phonetic categories. In Experiment 1, exposure to a visual idiosyncrasy in ambiguous audiovisually presented target words in a lexical decision task indeed resulted in retuning of the visual category boundary based on the disambiguating lexical context. In Experiment 2 it was tested whether lexical information retunes visual categories directly, or indirectly through the generalization from retuned auditory phonetic categories. Here, participants were exposed to auditory-only versions of the same ambiguous target words as in Experiment 1. Auditory phonetic categories were retuned by lexical knowledge, but no shifts were observed for the visual phonetic categories. Lexical knowledge can therefore guide retuning of visual phonetic categories, but lexically guided retuning of auditory phonetic categories is not generalized to visual categories. Rather, listeners adjust auditory and visual phonetic categories to talker idiosyncrasies separately.