UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Speech Science Forum - Nadine Lavan & Gwen Brekelmans (QMUL)

05 May 2022, 4:00 pm–5:30 pm

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Does high talker variability improve the learning of non-native phoneme contrasts? A large-scale replication of Logan, Lively and Pisoni (1991) and Lively, Logan and Pisoni (1993)

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Justin Lo



High variability phonetic training (HVPT) has become a standard paradigm in teaching novel L2 contrasts since the publication of two seminal studies (Logan et al., 1991; Lively et al., 1993). In HVPT speech contrasts are learned via multiple-talker input, where more varied input should aid generalization by focussing the learner on diagnostic acoustic features, whilst discounting irrelevant cues. However, these studies only include small samples (N=6), with few studies since having directly compared high and low variability input.

We therefore conducted a large-scale replication (N=166) of these studies as a registered report, to establish whether speech perception is better after phonetic training including multiple talkers (high-variability) vs. a single talker (low-variability). Native speakers of Japanese received either high- or low-variability training on the non-native contrast /r/-/l/ by learning to discriminate between English minimal pairs (“lock”-“rock”).

We saw clear learning during training in both high- and low-variability. However, our study found no evidence for a high-variability benefit: Bayes Factor analyses show that the evidence for a high-variability benefit was ambiguous, suggesting a very small effect at best. Our findings raise questions about the smallest effect size of interest for phonetic training, and have important implications for our understanding of speech perception.

About the Speaker

Nadine Lavan & Gwen Brekelmans

at Queen Mary University of London