Adult–child differences in acoustic cue weighting are influenced by segmental context: Children are not always perceptually biased towards transitions
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It has been proposed that young children may have a perceptual preference for transitional cues [Nittrouer, S. (2002). J. Acoust. Soc. Am. 112, 711–719. According to this proposal, this preference can manifest itself either as heavier weighting of transitional cues by children than by adults, or as heavier weighting of transitional cues than of other, more static, cues by children. This study tested this hypothesis by examining adults’ and children’s cue weighting for the contrasts /sai/-/∫ai/, /de/-/be/, /ta/-/da/, and /ti/-/di/. Children were found to weight transitions more heavily than did adults for the fricative contrast /sai/-/∫ai/, and were found to weight transitional cues more heavily than nontransitional cues for the voice-onset-time contrast /ta/-/da/. However, these two patterns of cue weighting were not found to hold for the contrasts /de/-/be/ and /ti/-/di/. Consistent with several studies in the literature, results suggest that children do not always show a bias towards vowel– formant transitions, but that cue weighting can differ according to segmental context, and possibly the physical distinctiveness of available acoustic cues.