One task of childhood involves learning to optimally weight acoustic cues in the speech signal in order to recover phonemic categories. This study examined the extent to which spectral degradation, as associated with cochlear implants, might interfere. The 3 goals were to measure, for adults and children, (a) cue weighting with spectrally degraded signals, (b) sensitivity to degraded cues, and (c) word recognition for degraded signals.


Twenty-three adults and 36 children (10 and 8 years old) labeled spectrally degraded stimuli from /bɑ/-to-/wɑ/ continua varying in formant and amplitude rise time (FRT and ART). They also discriminated degraded stimuli from FRT and ART continua, and recognized words.


A developmental increase in the weight assigned to FRT in labeling was clearly observed, with a slight decrease in weight assigned to ART. Sensitivity to these degraded cues measured by the discrimination task could not explain variability in cue weighting. FRT cue weighting explained significant variability in word recognition; ART cue weighting did not.


Spectral degradation affects children more than adults, but that degradation cannot explain the greater diminishment in children's weighting of FRT. It is suggested that auditory training could strengthen the weighting of spectral cues for implant recipients.


  • Aslin, R. N., & Pisoni, D. B. (1980). Some developmental processes in speech perception.In G. Yeni-Komshian, J. F. Kavanagh, & C. A. Ferguson (Eds.), Child phonology: Volume 2, perception (pp. 67–96). New York, NY: Academic Press.
  • Beddor, P. S., & Strange, W. (1982). Cross-language study of perception of the oral–nasal distinction.The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 71, 1551–1561.
  • Bourland Hicks, C., & Ohde, R. N. (2005). Developmental role of static, dynamic, and contextual cues in speech perception.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 48, 960–974.
  • Carpenter, A. L., & Shahin, A. J. (2013). Development of the N1–P2 auditory evoked response to amplitude rise time and rate of formant transition of speech sounds.Neuroscience Letters, 544, 56–61.
  • Cho, T., & Ladefoged, P. (1999). Variations and universals in VOT: Evidence from 18 languages.Journal of Phonetics, 27, 207–229.
  • Crowther, C. S., & Mann, V. (1992). Native language factors affecting use of vocalic cues to final consonant voicing in English.The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 92, 711–722.
  • Eimas, P. D., Siqueland, E. R., Jusczyk, P., & Vigorito, J. (1971, January22). Speech perception in infants.Science, 171, 303–306.
  • Escudero, P., Benders, T., & Lipski, S. C. (2009). Native, non-native and L2 perceptual cue weighting for Dutch vowels: The case of Dutch, German and Spanish listeners.Journal of Phonetics, 37, 452–465.
  • Giezen, M. R., Escudero, P., & Baker, A. (2010). Use of acoustic cues by children with cochlear implants.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53, 1440–1457.
  • Goldman, R., & Fristoe, M. (2000). Goldman Fristoe Test of Articulation–Second Edition. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service.
  • Gottfried, T. L., & Beddor, P. S. (1988). Perception of temporal and spectral information in French vowels.Language and Speech, 31, 57–75.
  • Greenlee, M. (1980). Learning the phonetic cues to the voiced–voiceless distinction: A comparison of child and adult speech perception.Journal of Child Language, 7, 459–468.
  • Greenwood, D. D. (1990). A cochlear frequency-position function for several species—29 years later.The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 87, 2592–2605.
  • Harris, K. S. (1958). Cues for the discrimination of American English fricatives in spoken syllables.Language and Speech, 1, 1–7.
  • Hirsh, I. J., Davis, H., Silverman, S. R., Reynolds, E. G., Eldert, E., & Benson, R. W. (1952). Development of materials for speech audiometry.Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 17, 321–337.
  • Holt, R. F., & Carney, A. E. (2005). Multiple looks in speech sound discrimination in adults.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 48, 922–943.
  • Hoonhorst, I., Colin, C., Markessis, E., Radeau, M., Deltenre, P., & Serniclaes, W. (2009). French native speakers in the making: From language-general to language-specific voicing boundaries.Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 104, 353–366.
  • Jenkins, J. J., Strange, W., & Edman, T. R. (1983). Identification of vowels in “vowelless” syllables.Perception & Psychophysics, 34, 441–450.
  • Kuhl, P. K. (1987). Perception of speech and sound in early infancy.In P. Salapatek, & L. Cohen (Eds.), Handbook of infant perception: Vol. 2. From perception to cognition (pp. 275–382). New York, NY: Academic Press.
  • Macmillan, N. A., & Creelman, C. D. (2005). Detection theory: A user's guide (2nd ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
  • Martin, N. A., & Brownell, R. (2011). Expressive One-Word Picture Vocabulary Test–Fourth Edition (EOWPVT-4). Novato, CA: Academic Therapy.
  • Maurer, D., & Werker, J. F. (2014). Perceptual narrowing during infancy: A comparison of language and faces.Developmental Psychobiology, 56, 154–178.
  • Mayo, C., Scobbie, J. M., Hewlett, N., & Waters, D. (2003). The influence of phonemic awareness development on acoustic cue weighting strategies in children's speech perception.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 46, 1184–1196.
  • Miyawaki, K., Strange, W., Verbrugge, R., Liberman, A. M., Jenkins, J. J., & Fujimura, O. (1975). An effect of linguistic experience: The discrimination of [r] and [l] by native speakers of Japanese and English.Perception & Psychophysics, 18, 331–340.
  • Moberly, A. C., Lowenstein, J. H., Tarr, E., Caldwell-Tarr, A., Welling, D. B., Shahin, A. J., & Nittrouer, S. (2014). Do adults with cochlear implants rely on different acoustic cues for phoneme perception than adults with normal hearing?.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 57, 566–582.
  • Nittrouer, S. (2002). Learning to perceive speech: How fricative perception changes, and how it stays the same.The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 112, 711–719.
  • Nittrouer, S. (2007). Dynamic spectral structure specifies vowels for children and adults.The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 122, 2328–2339.
  • Nittrouer, S., & Crowther, C. S. (1998). Examining the role of auditory sensitivity in the developmental weighting shift.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 41, 809–818.
  • Nittrouer, S., & Lowenstein, J. H. (2010). Learning to perceptually organize speech signals in native fashion.The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 127, 1624–1635.
  • Nittrouer, S., Lowenstein, J. H., & Packer, R. R. (2009). Children discover the spectral skeletons in their native language before the amplitude envelopes.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 35, 1245–1253.
  • Nittrouer, S., Lowenstein, J. H., & Tarr, E. (2013). Amplitude rise time does not cue the /bɑ/–/wɑ/ contrast for adults or children.Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 56, 427–440.
  • Nittrouer, S., & Studdert-Kennedy, M. (1986). The stop–glide distinction: Acoustic analysis and perceptual effect of variation in syllable amplitude envelope for initial /b/ and /w/.The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 80, 1026–1029.
  • Nittrouer, S., & Studdert-Kennedy, M. (1987). The role of coarticulatory effects in the perception of fricatives by children and adults.Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 30, 319–329.
  • Nittrouer, S., Tarr, E., Bolster, V., Caldwell-Tarr, A., Moberly, A. C., & Lowenstein, J. H. (2014). Low-frequency signals support perceptual organization of implant-simulated speech for adults and children.International Journal of Audiology, 53, 270–284.
  • Ohde, R. N., & German, S. R. (2011). Formant onsets and formant transitions as developmental cues to vowel perception.The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 130, 1628–1642.
  • Strange, W., Jenkins, J. J., & Johnson, T. L. (1983). Dynamic specification of coarticulated vowels.The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 74, 695–705.
  • Walsh, M. A., & Diehl, R. L. (1991). Formant transition duration and amplitude rise time as cues to the stop/glide distinction.The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Experimental Psychology, 43(A), 603–620.
  • Wardrip-Fruin, C., & Peach, S. (1984). Developmental aspects of the perception of acoustic cues in determining the voicing feature of final stop consonants.Language and Speech, 27, 367–379.
  • Werker, J. F., & Tees, R. C. (1984). Cross-language speech perception: Evidence for perceptual reorganization during the first year of life.Infant Behavior & Development, 7, 49–63.
  • Wilkinson, G. S., & Robertson, G. J. (2006). The Wide Range Achievement Test 4. Lutz, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Additional Resources