Abstract

We report the results obtained from a behavioural and electrophysiological study. A synthesised continuum going from labial /ba/ to retroflex /da/ through dental /da/ was tested for category goodness. Native English speakers rated different tokens from each category as good, bad or ambiguous. The results showed that not all of the representatives of each category were ideal and that the categories tested have an internal structure. The electrophysiological study evaluated whether event related potentials (ERPs) mirrored the goodness judgements. During a passive oddball task, the same participants were exposed to native /ba/-/da/, Hindi dental /da/-retroflex /da/ and within-category /ba/-/ba/ contrasts. Results showed that participants pre-attentively perceive the differences in all cases, as shown by mis-match negativities (MMN), late positive deflections (LPD) or greater N1 and/or P2 components for deviant stimuli. Acoustic sensitivities, categorical perception and category goodness all contributed to the waveforms obtained. We attribute the ERP effects to a combination of (1) prototypes built from initial sensitivities, (2) reinforcement with exposure to one's native language and (3) no permanent loss of the initial boundaries explains the effects observed. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.