Individual Differences in Language Ability Are Related to Variation in Word Recognition, Not Speech Perception: Evidence From Eye Movements Purpose The authors examined speech perception deficits associated with individual differences in language ability, contrasting auditory, phonological, or lexical accounts by asking whether lexical competition is differentially sensitive to fine-grained acoustic variation. Method Adolescents with a range of language abilities (N = 74, including 35 impaired) participated in an ... Research Article
Research Article  |   August 01, 2014
Individual Differences in Language Ability Are Related to Variation in Word Recognition, Not Speech Perception: Evidence From Eye Movements
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Bob McMurray
    University of Iowa, Iowa City
  • Cheyenne Munson
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • J. Bruce Tomblin
    University of Iowa, Iowa City
  • Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.
    Disclosure: The authors have declared that no competing interests existed at the time of publication.×
  • Correspondence to Bob McMurray: bob-mcmurray@uiowa.edu
  • Editor: Janna Oetting
    Editor: Janna Oetting×
  • Associate Editor: Marc Joanisse
    Associate Editor: Marc Joanisse×
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Attention, Memory & Executive Functions / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 2014
Individual Differences in Language Ability Are Related to Variation in Word Recognition, Not Speech Perception: Evidence From Eye Movements
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2014, Vol. 57, 1344-1362. doi:10.1044/2014_JSLHR-L-13-0196
History: Received July 24, 2013 , Revised October 30, 2013 , Accepted November 1, 2013
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 2014, Vol. 57, 1344-1362. doi:10.1044/2014_JSLHR-L-13-0196
History: Received July 24, 2013; Revised October 30, 2013; Accepted November 1, 2013
Web of Science® Times Cited: 5

Purpose The authors examined speech perception deficits associated with individual differences in language ability, contrasting auditory, phonological, or lexical accounts by asking whether lexical competition is differentially sensitive to fine-grained acoustic variation.

Method Adolescents with a range of language abilities (N = 74, including 35 impaired) participated in an experiment based on McMurray, Tanenhaus, and Aslin (2002) . Participants heard tokens from six 9-step voice onset time (VOT) continua spanning 2 words (beach/peach, beak/peak, etc.) while viewing a screen containing pictures of those words and 2 unrelated objects. Participants selected the referent while eye movements to each picture were monitored as a measure of lexical activation. Fixations were examined as a function of both VOT and language ability.

Results Eye movements were sensitive to within-category VOT differences: As VOT approached the boundary, listeners made more fixations to the competing word. This did not interact with language ability, suggesting that language impairment is not associated with differential auditory sensitivity or phonetic categorization. Listeners with poorer language skills showed heightened competitors fixations overall, suggesting a deficit in lexical processes.

Conclusion Language impairment may be better characterized by a deficit in lexical competition (inability to suppress competing words), rather than differences in phonological categorization or auditory abilities.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Grant R01008089, awarded to the first author. We would like to thank Marlea O'Brien, Marcia St. Clair, and Connie Ferguson for assistance with data collection and subject recruitment, and Dan McEchron for programmatic support and stimulus development.
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