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Cognition. 2012 Dec;125(3):413-28. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2012.07.017. Epub 2012 Aug 23.

The labial-coronal effect revisited: Japanese adults say pata, but hear tapa.

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Laboratory for Language Development, RIKEN Brain Sciences Institute, 2-1 Hirosawa, Wako City, Saitama 351-0198, Japan.


The labial-coronal effect has originally been described as a bias to initiate a word with a labial consonant-vowel-coronal consonant (LC) sequence. This bias has been explained with constraints on the human speech production system, and its perceptual correlates have motivated the suggestion of a perception-production link. However, previous studies exclusively considered languages in which LC sequences are globally more frequent than their counterpart. The current study examined the LC bias in speakers of Japanese, a language that has been claimed to possess more CL than LC sequences. We first conducted an analysis of Japanese corpora that qualified this claim, and identified a subgroup of consonants (plosives) exhibiting a CL bias. Second, focusing on this subgroup of consonants, we found diverging results for production and perception such that Japanese speakers exhibited an articulatory LC bias, but a perceptual CL bias. The CL perceptual bias, however, was modulated by language of presentation, and was only present for stimuli recorded by a Japanese, but not a French, speaker. A further experiment with native speakers of French showed the opposite effect, with an LC bias for French stimuli only. Overall, we find support for a universal, articulatory motivated LC bias in production, supporting a motor explanation of the LC effect, while perceptual biases are influenced by distributional frequencies of the native language.

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