February 5, 2013

Guest Speaker: Chandan Narayan (Feb. 7/2013)

Speaker: Chandan Narayan (UTSC)
Date: Thursday February 7th
Time: 2:30pm
Place: SS1086.

Title: “The Phonetic World of Infants: Perceptual Biases and the Acoustics of Input.”


In this talk I explore the interrelatedness of types of speech sounds infants are able to perceive, the peculiarities of infant-directed speech (IDS), and the shapes of the world’s sound systems. The connections between first language acquisition, phonological typology, and sound change have been questioned in the past mainly from the standpoint of the emergence of children’s *productive* phonology, the speech sounds they are able to make. My research program takes a different perspective, approaching possible links between acquisition, typology, and sound change as a function of infants’ innate perceptual biases and the acoustic nature of the primary input to infants, infant directed speech. I argue that the speech sounds that infants fail to perceive are precisely those that are rare in the world’s sound systems. The second part of my talk looks to the acoustic nature IDS. IDS is thought to provide infants with robust phonetic cues to the phonology of the language. I present work from English and Korean IDS that suggests that IDS is often less than ideal phonetic input to infants. Taken together, infant speech perception and the acoustics of the caregiver-infant interaction conspire in potentially affecting the observed shapes of sound systems and the directions of sound change.

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