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Atten Percept Psychophys. 2010 Aug;72(6):1601-13. doi: 10.3758/APP.72.6.1601.

Language identification from visual-only speech signals.

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Speech Research Laboratory, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, Indiana University, 1101 East Tenth Street, Bloomington, IN 47405-1301, USA.


Our goal in the present study was to examine how observers identify English and Spanish from visual-only displays of speech. First, we replicated the recent findings of Soto-Faraco et al. (2007) with Spanish and English bilingual and monolingual observers using different languages and a different experimental paradigm (identification). We found that prior linguistic experience affected response bias but not sensitivity (Experiment 1). In two additional experiments, we investigated the visual cues that observers use to complete the language-identification task. The results of Experiment 2 indicate that some lexical information is available in the visual signal but that it is limited. Acoustic analyses confirmed that our Spanish and English stimuli differed acoustically with respect to linguistic rhythmic categories. In Experiment 3, we tested whether this rhythmic difference could be used by observers to identify the language when the visual stimuli is temporally reversed, thereby eliminating lexical information but retaining rhythmic differences. The participants performed above chance even in the backward condition, suggesting that the rhythmic differences between the two languages may aid language identification in visual-only speech signals. The results of Experiments 3A and 3B also confirm previous findings that increased stimulus length facilitates language identification. Taken together, the results of these three experiments replicate earlier findings and also show that prior linguistic experience, lexical information, rhythmic structure, and utterance length influence visual-only language identification.

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