Understanding speech in our native tongue seems natural and effortless; listening to speech in a nonnative language is a different experience. In this book, Anne Cutler argues that listening to speech is a process of native listening because so much of it is exquisitely tailored to the requirements of the native language. Her cross-linguistic study (drawing on experimental work in languages that range from English and Dutch to Chinese and Japanese) documents what is universal and what is language specific in the way we listen to spoken language.
Cutler describes the formidable range of mental tasks we carry out, all at once, with astonishing speed and accuracy, when we listen. These include evaluating probabilities arising from the structure of the native vocabulary, tracking information to locate the boundaries between words, paying attention to the way the words are pronounced, and assessing not only the sounds of speech but prosodic information that spans sequences of sounds. She describes infant speech perception, the consequences of language-specific specialization for listening to other languages, the flexibility and adaptability of listening (to our native languages), and how language-specificity and universality fit together in our language processing system.
Drawing on her four decades of work as a psycholinguist, Cutler documents the recent growth in our knowledge about how spoken-word recognition works and the role of language structure in this process. Her book is a significant contribution to a vibrant and rapidly developing field.
About the Author
Anne Cutler is Director of the Language Comprehension Department at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and Professor, MARCS Auditory Laboratories at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.
"This is a remarkable book that provides a retrospective overview of the core ideas and data that have defined the field of spoken language processing over the past four decades. At the same time, it provides a prospective vision of the theoretical and empirical landscape before us. The central claim is that the processes of spoken language comprehension are shaped by native language experience. Each chapter develops a branch of this argument so that by the end a full, rich, and coherent picture has emerged. Thus, reading this book is a rewarding and enriching experience."
Ann Bradlow, Professor and Chair, Department of Linguistics, Northwestern University
"Anne Cutler has written a truly outstanding book. The reasons for the scientific importance of the topic of each chapter are presented step by step in a clear and convincing manner. In addition to the normal figures with graphs and diagrams that one expects in this kind of literature, Cutler makes excellent pedagogical use of 'panels' enclosed in boxes. The panels function as useful supplements to points being made in the main text, and contain such things as introductions to theoretical concepts and good explanations of experimental techniques."
Arthur S. Abramson, Scientist, Haskins Laboratories; Professor Emeritus of Linguistics, the University of Connecticut