Psycholinguists should resist the allure of linguistic units as perceptual units
Samuel, Arthur G.
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Arthur G. Samuel, Psycholinguists should resist the allure of linguistic units as perceptual units, Journal of Memory and Language, Volume 111, 2020, 104070, ISSN 0749-596X, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jml.2019.104070.
The current study has empirical, methodological, and theoretical components. It draws heavily on two recent papers: Bowers et al. (2016) (JML, 87, 71–83) used results from selective adaptation experiments to argue that phonemes play a critical role in speech perception. Mitterer et al. (2018) (JML, 98, 77–92) responded with their own adaptation experiments to advocate instead for allophones. These studies are part of a renewed use of the selective adaptation paradigm. Empirically, the current study reports results that demonstrate that the Bowers et al. findings were artifactual. Methodologically, the renewed use of adaptation in the field is a positive development, but many recent studies suffer from a lack of knowledge of prior adaptation findings. As the use of selective adaptation grows, it will be important to draw on the considerable existing knowledge base (this literature is also relevant to the currently popular research on phonetic recalibration). Theoretically, for a half century there has been a recurring effort to demonstrate the psychological reality of various linguistic units, such as the phoneme or the allophone. The evidence is that listeners will use essentially any pattern that has been experienced often enough, not just the units that are well-suited to linguistic descriptions of language. Thus, rather than trying to identify any special perceptual status for linguistic units, psycholinguists should focus their efforts on more productive issues.