Developmental Changes in Cross-language Speech Perception: lmplications for Cognitive Models of Speech Processing: Janet Werker
INTRODUCTION Developmental research in cross-language speech perception provides a unique perspective on cognitive models of speech processing, by permitting the simultaneous consideration of both universal and language-specific aspects of speech perception. Universal aspects of speech perception can be identified by studying the behaviour of the young infant prior to extensive exposure to any one language, thus allowing at least an estimate of what the parameters of the initial state might be. Studies of crosslanguage speech perception in adults can augment this search for universals, by identifying phonetic sensitivities that remain robust irrespective of supportive language experience. Perhaps most importantly, crosslanguage studies of infants, children, and adults can reveal the ways in which linguistic sensitivities change as a function of differential language exposure. In this endeavour it is possible to empirically manipulate factors of variation such as the range of experience, age, the testing context, etc., in order to help identify the mechanisms that underlie how language-specific experience shapes initial abilities. The goal of this chapter is to highlight developmental research in cross-language speech perception, and to evaluate cognitive models of speech processing in the light of this research.