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Influence of Early Linguistic Experience on Regional Dialect Categorization by an Adult Cochlear Implant User: A Case Study

Tamati, Terrin N.1; Gilbert, Jaimie L.2; Pisoni, David B.1,3,4

doi: 10.1097/AUD.0000000000000016
Brief Reports

To investigate the ability of a cochlear implant user to categorize talkers by region of origin and examine the influence of prior linguistic experience on the perception of regional dialect variation. A postlingually deafened adult cochlear implant user from the Southern region of the United States completed a six-alternative forced-choice dialect categorization task. The cochlear implant user was most accurate at categorizing unfamiliar talkers from his own region and another familiar dialect region, and least accurate at categorizing talkers from less familiar regions. Although the dialect-specific information made available by a cochlear implant may be degraded compared with information available to normal-hearing listeners, this experienced cochlear implant user was able to reliably categorize unfamiliar talkers by region of origin. The participant made use of dialect-specific acoustic-phonetic information in the speech signal and previously stored knowledge of regional dialect differences from early exposure before implantation despite an early hearing loss.

The current study investigated the ability of a cochlear implant user to categorize talkers by region of origin and the influence of linguistic experience on his perception of regional dialects. A postlingually deafened adult cochlear implant user from the Southern United States completed a forced-choice dialect categorization task with six American English dialect regions. The participant was able to reliably categorize talkers by region of origin and was most accurate at categorizing talkers from his region and another familiar dialect region. These findings suggest that the participant encoded detailed dialect-specific information through direct experience with dialect variation in his own linguistic environment.

1Department of Linguistics, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA; 2School of Communicative Disorders, UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wisconsin, USA; 3Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana, USA; and 4Department of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA.

Preparation of this article was supported in part by National Institutes of Health National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders (NIH NIDCD) Training Grant T32DC00012 and NIH NIDCD Research Grant R01-DC00111 to Indiana University.

The authors declare no other conflict of interest.

Address correspondence to: Terrin N. Tamati, Speech Research Laboratory, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, 1101 East Tenth Street, Bloomington, IN 47405, USA. E-mail: ttamati@indiana.edu

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins