Perceptual Reorganization Essay

2415 words - 10 pages

Description
As group number 7, my group presented in week 4 on the topic of ‘Differentiation of native vs. nonnative contrasts', specifically targeting infants 0-12 months old. The article we used was the by Narayan, Werker and Beddor (2010) on ‘The interaction between acoustic salience and language experience in developmental speech perception: evidence from nasal place discrimination'. As the title suggests, the researches tried to find out whether infants were able to perceive nasal place differences between native and nonnative syllables, focusing mainly on any possible interaction between acoustic salience and the infants' language experience.
The article I selected is the one from Group 8, presented in the same week under the same topic. Kitamura, Panneton and Best (2013) wrote a paper on ‘The Development of Language Constancy: Attention to Native versus Nonnative Accents'. They tested infants' phonological abilities, focusing mainly on the complementary principles of phonological distinctiveness and phonological constancy. I selected this paper due to the interesting focus on accents, and also because after focusing so much on typical phoneme place differences when researching on the week's topic, I find this alternative take on the same topic to be quite refreshing.
The theory I will be focusing on is the perceptual reorganization (PR) mentioned in the article. This might be a common, foundational theory which most articles on early language development tend to make use off, or at least mention once. This is why I would like to find out if this theory is actually that useful in explaining the phenomenon of infants' diminishing ability to differentiate nonnative phonemes upon reaching a certain age. After all, this might be a case of repeating something long enough and people will come to accept it as something fundamental and accurate.

Background
Perceptual reorganization (PR) has been a much researched on topic since the last century. Experimenters started noticing a consistent discrepancy between infants' and adults' ability in discriminating nonnative phonetic contrasts (Werker & Lalonde, 1988). Eimas (Werker & Lalonde, 1988) suggested that infants might be biologically predisposed to discriminate a universal set of phonetic contrasts, and there would be an "apparent decline or reorganization in this universal phonetic sensitivity as a function of learning a particular language" i.e. the native language. Most articles tend to reference a standard few papers, mainly by Werker and colleagues (e.g. Werker & Tees, 1984), who provided supporting data for this hypothesis, and further suggested that this event occurs around the first year of life.
Defined as the "burgeoning capacity to ignore linguistic information … irrelevant to the native language" (Kitamura, Panneton, & Best, 2013), it is the ability of infants to "discriminate … phonetic distinctions used across natural languages without relevant experience, … decline in this...

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