Skip to main page content
Access keys NCBI Homepage MyNCBI Homepage Main Content Main Navigation
Clinical Trial
. 2012 Sep 25;109(39):15953-8.
doi: 10.1073/pnas.1204319109. Epub 2012 Sep 10.

Auditory Perception at the Root of Language Learning

Affiliations
Free PMC article
Clinical Trial

Auditory Perception at the Root of Language Learning

Jutta L Mueller et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. .
Free PMC article

Abstract

Learning a spoken language presupposes efficient auditory functions. In the present event-related potential study, we tested whether and how basic auditory processes are related to online learning of a linguistic rule in infants and adults. Participants listened to frequent standard stimuli, which were interspersed with infrequent pitch deviants and rule deviants, violating a nonadjacent dependency between two syllables. Only infants who showed the more mature mismatch response for the pitch deviants (i.e., a negativity) showed a mismatch response to the rule deviants. Concordantly, the small group of adults who showed evidence of rule learning showed larger mismatch effects for pitch processing. We conclude that the ability to extract linguistic rules develops in early infancy and is tightly linked to functional aspects of basic auditory mechanisms.

Conflict of interest statement

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Figures

Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.
Oscillogram of a series of standard and deviant stimuli. Single syllables in rule deviants (R) are acoustically identical to standard stimuli (S) in contrast to pitch deviants (P).
Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.
Rule learning is linked to pitch processing in infants. ERP difference waveforms and bar plots representing mean amplitudes (deviants − standards) in the significant TW 60–260 ms at the representative electrode F3, which contributed to the significant main effects across comparisons. Significant effects are marked with shaded areas in the waveforms. In the bar plots, significant effects are marked with asterisks (*P ≤ 0.05, **P ≤ 0.01, ***P ≤ 0.001). (A) Girls with neg MMR in the pitch condition show negativity for rule condition. (B) Boys with neg MMR in the pitch condition show positivity for rule condition. Girls (C) and boys (D) with pos MMR in the pitch condition do not show any significant effects for the rule condition.
Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.
No rule learning under passive listening conditions in adults. ERP difference waveforms and bar plots representing mean amplitudes (deviants − standards) at the representative electrode Fz, which contributed to the significant effects in the two TWs [a negativity in TW1: 120–280 ms (MMN), and a negativity in TW2: 480–800 ms]. Significant effects are marked with shaded areas in the waveforms. In the bar plots, significant effects are marked with asterisks (**P ≤ 0.01). Participants show an MMN and a late negativity in the pitch condition and no significant effects in the rule condition.
Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.
Rule learning is linked to pitch processing in adults during active listening. ERP difference waveforms and bar plots representing mean amplitudes (deviants − standards) plotted for learners and nonlearners separately at representative electrodes, which contributed to the significant pitch and rule effects. Significant differences between learner groups are marked with shaded areas in the waveforms. In the bar plots, significant effects are marked with asterisks (*P ≤ 0.05, **P ≤ 0.01, ***P ≤ 0.001). In the pitch condition, shown at the representative electrode FCz, significant differences were present in two TWs [a negativity in TW1: 140–380 ms (MMN/N2), and a positivity in TW2: 640–720 ms (P3)]. Similarly, in the rule condition, shown at the representative electrode FC4, significant differences were present in two TWs [a negativity in TW1: 400–600 ms (N2), and a positivity in TW2: 800–1,000 ms (P3)]. Learners show enhanced responses in the pitch condition and in the rule condition compared with nonlearners.

Similar articles

See all similar articles

Cited by 19 articles

See all "Cited by" articles

Publication types

LinkOut - more resources

Feedback