Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Communication Sciences and Disorders

First Advisor

Susan Loveall

Second Advisor

Kara Hawthorne

Relational Format



Phoneme categorization (i.e., the ability to differentiate between different speech sounds) is not an easy task, as individuals must integrate multiple sources of information, including both acoustic and contextual information. When a talker has a foreign accent, the listener may place more weight on sentential context because of the ambiguity of the acoustic/phonetic information. For example, listeners are more likely to classify a word that is phonetically ambiguous between goat and coat as goat if the sentential context is “The boy milked the ___,” and this is especially the case when listening to a non-native (compared to native) talker (Schertz & Hawthorne, 2018). In the present study, we extended this result in adults using multiple talkers and two tasks. Additionally, we continued this research with children and found that they do use sentential context, but, unlike adults, do not show significant differences in how they use context for native vs. non-native talkers. The findings of this study allow for a better understanding of how listeners of different ages flexibly reweight acoustic and contextual cues within the context of different types of talkers. Understanding this could allow for better communication in a diverse America. Keywords: speech perception, non-native speech, children, cue weighting, phoneme categorization

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