Listening Natively Across Perceptual Domains?

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Abstract

Our native tongue influences the way we perceive other languages. But does it also determine the way we perceive nonlinguistic sounds? The authors investigated how speakers of Italian, Turkish, and Persian group sequences of syllables, tones, or visual shapes alternating in either frequency or duration. We found strong native listening effects with linguistic stimuli. Speakers of Italian grouped the linguistic stimuli differently from speakers of Turkish and Persian. However, speakers of all languages showed the same perceptual biases when grouping the nonlinguistic auditory and the visual stimuli. The shared perceptual biases appear to be determined by universal grouping principles, and the linguistic differences caused by prosodic differences between the languages. Although previous findings suggest that acquired linguistic knowledge can either enhance or diminish the perception of both linguistic and nonlinguistic auditory stimuli, we found no transfer of native listening effects across auditory domains or perceptual modalities.

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