chapter  3
29 Pages

How Word Recognition May Evolve from Infant Speech Perception Capacities: Peter Jusczyk

Peter W. Jusczyk Department of Psychology, State University of New York at Buffalo, Buffalo, NY 14260, USA.

INTRODUCTION When the field of infant speech perception research began, a little over 20 years ago, the central questions concerned the nature of the basic perceptual capacities. Could nonspeaking infants even perceive differences between speech sounds? If so, then how does their sensitivity to speech contrasts compare to adults? What role does experience with learning a particular language play in perceiving speech? The answer to the first of these questions came from the very first studies in the area, which demonstrated that infants are capable of perceiving contrasts between syllables that differ in as little as a single phonetic feature (e.g. Eimas, Siqueland, Jusczyk, & Vigorito, 1971; Moffit, 1971; Morse, 1972; Trehub, 1973). In the interim, considerable information has been gained about the second of these issues as well. For example, it has been shown that infants are able to adjust to changes in speaking voice (e.g. Kuhl, 1979; 1983) and speaking rate (Eimas & Miller, 1981) at a very early age and can detect contrasts in different positions within utterances (e.g. Goodsitt, Morse, Ver Hoove, & Cowan, 1984; Jusczyk, 1977; Jusczyk & Thompson, 1978). Although current methodology does not permit a detailed comparison of just how sensitive infants' capacities in these domains are relative to adults', there seems to be reasonable match at a gross level.