Experiences and expectations in the perception of speech
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Linguistics
A phoneme-monitoring experiment was conducted in which participants were required to listen for instances of /ɹ/ distributed variably in four different voices. Listeners had different expectations of the occurrence of /ɹ/ in different contexts in each voice, reflecting their experiences with the varieties these voices represented and their beliefs regarding which varieties they were hearing. Listeners’ perception of /ɹ/ was strongly conditioned by their expectations, and was also subject to change through experience over the course of the experiment. The study offers tentative evidence that listeners’ expectations condition and limit the malleability of their perception, whilst demonstrating listeners’ baseline responsiveness to the actual content of language stimuli, independent of the effects of their beliefs and experiences. It is argued that these findings illustrate the importance of bringing elements of predictive processing into usage-based models of language, capturing linguistic knowledge as emerging through the interaction of individuals’ experiences with, and beliefs concerning, the language in which they are immersed.