In this paper we review the results of four speech perception experiments that explore the difference between language-specific perception and psycho-acoustic auditory perception. The first two experiments examine this difference with voiceless fricatives by American English and Dutch listeners. The second series of experiments explores the perception of consonant palatalization by American English and Russian listeners. These experiments examine this processing difference through two tasks: speeded AX discrimination (“same” or “different” response) and similarity rating. The fast-paced nature of the AX discrimination task is designed to bypass linguistic processing and hone in on pure auditory similarity. The similarity rating task asks listeners to compare two stimuli at a more leisurely pace and language-specific perception is evaluated. The results of these experiments suggest that psycho-acoustic perception can be evaluated apart from linguistic perception. Other work using this experimental paradigm, however, has found language effects in both AX discrimination and rating tasks (Boomershine et al., The impact of allophony vs. contrast on speech perception, Mouton de Gruyter, 2008; McGuire, Phonetic category learning, The Ohio State University, 2007). We reconcile our findings with the contrary results by demonstrating that language effects tend to appear in the longer response latencies that naturally allow for linguistic processing and are attenuated in the fast responses.
© 2010 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York