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Nonnative consonant cluster learning (Buchwald & Cheng, 2023)

posted on 2023-01-12, 19:42 authored by Adam Buchwald, Hung-Shao Cheng

Purpose: Nonnative consonant cluster learning has become a useful experimental approach for learning about speech motor learning, and we sought to enhance our understanding of this area and to establish best practices for this type of research.

Method: One hundred twenty individuals completed a nonnative consonant cluster learning task within a speech motor learning paradigm. Following a brief prepractice, participants then practiced the production of eight word-initial nonnative consonant clusters embedded in bisyllabic nonwords (e.g., GD in /gdivu/). The clusters ranged in difficulty according to linguistic typology and sonority sequencing. Acquisition was operationalized as the change across the practice section and learning was assessed with two retention sessions (R1: 30 min after practice; R2: 2 days after practice). We evaluated changes in accuracy as well as in the acoustic details of the cluster production at each time point.

Results: Overall, participants improved in their production of the consonant clusters. Accuracy increased, and duration measures decreased in specific measures associated with cluster production. The change in coordination measured in the acoustics changed both for clusters that were incorrectly produced and for those that were correctly produced, indicating continued motor learning even in accurate tokens.

Conclusions: These results aid our understanding of the complexity of nonnative consonant cluster learning. In particular, both factors related to both phonological and speech motor control properties affect the learning of novel speech sequences.

Supplemental Material S1. Overall accuracy for each consonant cluster class at each time point, including performance across acquisition (practice session). Lines indicating baseline performance are provided to help visualize the change. Error bars are standard error.

Supplemental Material S2. Overall burst-to-burst duration in /gd/ and /pt/ clusters at each time point, including performance across acquisition (practice session). Error bars represent standard error. 

Supplemental Material S3. Overall nasal duration in correctly produced fN clusters at each time point, including performance across acquisition (practice session). Error bars represent standard error.

Buchwald, A., & Cheng, H.-S. (2023). Factors affecting nonnative consonant cluster learning. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. Advance online publication.

Publisher Note: This article is part of the Special Issue: Select Papers From the 2022 Conference on Motor Speech.


This work was funded by two grants from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to the first author (A.B.: K01DC014298 and R01DC018589).