Infant Speech Perception

Nature’s Contributions
  • Philip A. Morse
Part of the Advances in the Study of Communication and Affect book series (ASCA, volume 10)


Nature’s contributions to the infant’s speech perception abilities were, at one time, a very controversial topic. Some investigators, including the present author, interpreted the early findings in infant speech perception as evidence of innate, species-specific linguistic processing, wheras others strongly disagreed with this interpretation (cf. Butterfield & Cairns, 1974; Eimas, 1974b; Morse, 1974). Gradually, over the course of the past decade, evidence has emerged that has helped to clarify the place of nature’s contributions in infant speech perception. These studies have revealed an impressive array of speech perception abilities not only in the human infant but also in nonhuman species. Since much of this work has been motivated by research and theory in human adult speech perception (particularly by Liberman and his colleagues at Haskins Laboratories), the present chapter begins with the basic findings in adult speech perception that first captured the attention of infant researchers and that subsequently prompted studies of speech perception in nonhuman species. The second section of the chapter discusses the contributions of nature implicated by studies of cross-language infant speech perception. In the third portion of the chapter, nature’s contributions are considered within an auditory information-processing framework. In the final section, we return to a familiar issue underlying much of the research in infant speech perception: Which, if any, aspects of speech perception are unique to human “nature?”


Acoustical Society Speech Perception Speech Sound Right Hemisphere Phonetic Category 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip A. Morse
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of NeuropsychologyNew England Rehabilitation HospitalWoburnUSA

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