Skip to main content Accessibility help

Japanese co-occurrence restrictions influence second language perception



Most current models of nonnative speech perception (e.g., extended perceptual assimilation model, PAM-L2, Best & Tyler, 2007; speech learning model, Flege, 1995; native language magnet model, Kuhl, 1993) base their predictions on the native/nonnative status of individual phonetic/phonological segments. This paper demonstrates that the phonotactic properties of Japanese influence the perception of natively contrasting consonants and suggests that phonotactic influence must be formally incorporated in these models. We first propose that by extending the perceptual categories outlined in PAM-L2 to incorporate sequences of sounds, we can account for the effects of differences in native and nonnative phonotactics on nonnative and cross-language segmental perception. In addition, we test predictions based on such an extension in two perceptual experiments. In Experiment 1, Japanese listeners categorized and rated vowel–consonant–vowel strings in combinations that either obeyed or violated Japanese phonotactics. The participants categorized phonotactically illegal strings to the perceptually nearest (legal) categories. In Experiment 2, participants discriminated the same strings in AXB discrimination tests. Our results show that Japanese listeners are more accurate and have faster response times when discriminating between legal strings than between legal and illegal strings. These findings expose serious shortcomings in currently accepted nonnative perception models, which offer no framework for the influence of native language phonotactics.


Corresponding author

ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Alexander Kilpatrick, University of Melbourne, Babel Building University of Melbourne Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia. E-mail:


Hide All
Adank, P., Evans, B. G., Stuart-Smith, J., & Scott, S. K. (2009). Comprehension of familiar and unfamiliar native accents under adverse listening conditions. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 35, 520.
Best, C. T. (1994). The emergence of native-language phonological influences in infants: A perceptual assimilation model. In J. C. Goodman & H. C. Nusbaum (Eds.), The development of speech perception: The transition from speech sounds to spoken words (pp. 167224). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Best, C. T. (1995). A direct-realist view of cross-language speech perception. In W. Strange (Ed.), Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research (pp. 171204). Timonium: York Press.
Best, C. T., & Strange, W. (1992). Effects of language-specific phonological and phonetic factors on cross-language perception of approximants. Journal of Phonetics, 20, 305330.
Best, C. T., & Tyler, M. D. (2007). Nonnative and second-language speech perception: Commonalities and complementarities. In J. Munro & O. S. Bohn (Eds.), Second language speech learning: The role of language experience in speech perception and production (pp. 1334). Amsterdam: Benjamins.
Blevins, J. (1995). The syllable in phonological theory. In J. Goldsmith (Ed.), Handbook of phonological theory (pp. 206244). London: Basil Blackwell.
Bloch, B. (1950). Studies in colloquial Japanese IV phonemics. Language, 26, 86125.
Boersma, P., & Weenink, D. (2015). Praat (Version 5.4.08) [Computer software]. Retrieved March 12, 2015, from
Bonatti, L. L. (2010). Psyscope X (Build 77) [Computer software]. Retrieved January 15, 2015, from
Bundgaard-Nielsen, R. L., & Baker, B. (2014). Frequency in the input affects perception of phonological contrasts for native speakers. In J. Hay & E. Parnell (Eds.), Proceedings of the 15th Australasian International Speech Science and Technology Conference (pp. 205208). Christchurch, New Zealand: University of Canterbury, Australasian Speech Science and Technology Association.
Bundgaard-Nielsen, R. L., Best, C. T., & Tyler, M. D. (2011). Vocabulary size is associated with second-language vowel perception performance in adult learners. Studies in Second Language Acquisition, 33, 433461.
Cabinet of Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. (1991). 外来語の表記. Retrieved from
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Cuetos, F., Hallé, P., Dominguez, A., & Segui, J. (2011). Perception of prothetic /e/ in #sC utterances: Gating data. Oral Communication at the 17th ICPhS, 17, 1721.
Davidson, L., & Shaw, J. A. (2012). Sources of illusion in consonant cluster perception. Journal of Phonetics, 40, 234248.
Dupoux, E., Kakehi, K., Hirose, Y., Pallier, C., & Mehler, J. (1999). Epenthetic vowels in Japanese: A perceptual illusion? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 25, 1568.
Dupoux, E., Parlato, E., Frota, S., Hirose, Y., & Peperkamp, S. (2011). Where do illusory vowels come from? Journal of Memory and Language, 64, 199210.
Edwards, J., Beckman, M. E., & Munson, B. (2004). The interaction between vocabulary size and phonotactic probability effects on children’s production accuracy and fluency in nonword repetition. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 47, 421436.
Flege, J. E. (1995). Second language speech learning—Theory, findings, and problems. In W. Strange (Ed.), Speech perception and linguistic experience: Issues in cross-language research (pp. 233277). Baltimore, MD: York Press.
Hallé, P. A., & Best, C. T. (2007). Dental-to-velar perceptual assimilation: A cross-linguistic study of the perception of dental stop + /l/ clusters. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 121, 28992914.
Hallé, P. A., Dominguez, A., Cuetos, F., & Segui, J. (2008). Phonological mediation in visual masked priming: Evidence from phonotactic repair. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 34, 177.
Hallé, P. A., Segui, J., Frauenfelder, U., & Meunier, C. (1998). Processing of illegal consonant clusters: A case of perceptual assimilation? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24, 592.
Itô, J., & Mester, A. (1995). The core-periphery structure of the lexicon and constraints on reranking. Papers in Optimality Theory, 18, 181209.
Itô, J., & Mester, A. (1999). The phonological lexicon. In N. Tsujimura (Ed.), The handbook of Japanese linguistics (pp. 62100). Oxford: Blackwell.
Kabak, B., & Idsardi, W. J. (2007). Perceptual distortions in the adaptation of English consonant clusters: Syllable structure or consonantal contact constraints? Language and Speech, 50, 2352.
Kahn, D. (1976). Syllable-based generalizations in English phonology (Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology).
Kawahara, S., Ono, H., & Sudo, K. (2006). Consonant co-occurrence restrictions in Yamato Japanese. Japanese/Korean Linguistics, 14, 2738.
Kuhl, P. K. (1993). Innate predispositions and the effects of experience in speech perception: The native language magnet theory. In B. de Boysson-Bardies, S. de Schonen, P. Jusczyk, P. MacNeilage, & J. Morton (Eds.), Developmental neurocognition: Speech and face processing in the first year of life (pp. 259274). Hingham: Kluewr Academic Press.
Kuhl, P. K., Conboy, B. T., Coffey-Corina, S., Padden, D., Rivera-Gaxiola, M., & Nelson, T. (2008). Phonetic learning as a pathway to language: New data and native language magnet theory expanded (NLM-e). Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 363, 9791000.
Kuhl, P. K., Williams, K. A., Lacerda, F., Stevens, K. N., & Lindblom, B. (1992). Linguistic experience alters phonetic perception in infants by 6 months of age. Science, 255, 606608.
Lewkowicz, D. J. (2014). Early experience and multisensory perceptual narrowing. Developmental Psychobiology, 56, 292315.
Munro, M. J., & Derwing, T. M. (1995). Processing time, accent, and comprehensibility in the perception of foreign-accented speech. Language and Speech, 38, 289306.
Mutsukawa, M. (2009). Japanese loanword phonology: The nature of inputs and the loanword sublexicon. Tokyo: Hituzi Syobo.
Pintér, G. (2015). The emergence of new consonant contrasts. In H. Kubozono (Ed.), Handbook of Japanese phonetics and phonology (pp. 121165). Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
Pitt, M. A., & McQueen, J. M. (1998). Is compensation for coarticulation mediated by the lexicon? Journal of Memory and Language, 39, 347370.
Schmid, P. M., & Yeni-Komshian, G. H. (1999). The effects of speaker accent and target predictability on perception of mispronunciations. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42, 5664.
Scott, L. S., & Monesson, A. (2010). Experience-dependent neural specialization during infancy. Neuropsychologia, 48, 18571861.
Scott, L. S., Pascalis, O., & Nelson, C. A. (2007). A domain-general theory of the development of perceptual discrimination. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 16, 197201.
Stanovich, K. E., & West, R. F. (2000). Advancing the rationality debate. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 23, 701717.
Tamoka, K., & Makioka, S. (2004). Frequency of occurrence for units of phonemes, morae, and syllables appearing in a lexical corpus of a Japanese newspaper. Behaviour Research Methods, Instruments & Computers, 36, 531547.
Tsujimura, N. (2013). An introduction to Japanese linguistics (3rd ed.). Malden: Blackwell.
Vance, T. J. (1987). An introduction to Japanese phonology. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Vitevitch, M. S., & Luce, P. A. (1998). When words compete: Levels of processing in perception of spoken words. Psychological Science, 9, 325329.
Vitevitch, M. S., Luce, P. A., Charles-Luce, J., & Kemmerer, D. (1997). Phonotactics and syllable stress: Implications for the processing of spoken nonsense words. Language and Speech, 40, 4762.
Vitevitch, M. S., Luce, P. A., Pisoni, D. B., & Auer, E. T. (1999). Phonotactics, neighborhood activation, and lexical access for spoken words. Brain and Language, 68, 306311.
Wagner, M., Shafer, V. L., Martin, B., & Steinschneider, M. (2012). The phonotactic influence on the perception of a consonant cluster /pt/ by native English and native Polish listeners: A behavioral and event related potential (ERP) study. Brain and Language, 123, 3041.
Werker, J. F., Gilbert, J. H., Humphrey, K., & Tees, R. C. (1981). Developmental aspects of cross-language speech perception. Child Development, 52, 349355.
Werker, J. F., Pons, F., Dietrich, C., Kajikawa, S., Fais, L., & Amano, S. (2007). Infant-directed speech supports phonetic category learning in English and Japanese. Cognition, 103, 147162.
Werker, J. F., & Tees, R. C. (1984). Cross-language speech perception: Evidence for perceptual reorganization during the first year of life. Infant Behavior and Development, 7, 4963.


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Japanese co-occurrence restrictions influence second language perception



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.