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Effect of voicing on perceptual auditory laterality in Estonian and Norwegian native speakers


As a reliable and valid measures of perceptual auditory laterality, dichotic listening has been successfully applied in studies in many countries and languages. However, languages differ in the linguistic relevance of change in initial phoneme of words (e.g., for word identification). In the present cross-language study, we examine the effect of these differences on dichotic-listening task performance to establish how characteristics of one's native language affect the perception of nonnative phonological features. We compared 33 native speakers of Norwegian, a language characterized by a clear distinction between voiced and unvoiced initial plosive consonants, with 30 native speakers of Estonian, a language that has exclusively unvoiced initial phonemes. Using a free-report dichotic-listening paradigm utilizing pairs of voiced (/ba/, /da/, /ga/) and unvoiced (/pa/, /ta/, /ka/) stop-consonant vowels as stimulus material, the Norwegian native speakers were found to be more sensitive to the voicing of the initial plosive than the Estonian group. “Voicing” explained 69% and 18% of the variance in the perceptual auditory laterality in the Norwegian and the Estonian sample, respectively. This indicates that experiential differences, likely during acquisition of the mother tongue in early development, permanently shape the sensitivity to the voicing contrast.

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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE René Westerhausen, Research Group for Lifespan Changes in Brain and Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, POB 1094, Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway. E-mail:
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Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
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