Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Lynne W. Olsho


The question of how humans clearly perceive speech, which is anything but clear when analyzed acoustically, has prompted researchers to look at the phenomenon of phonetic ambiguity. In adults, phonetic ambiguity perception has been shown to be aided by the listener using expectations due to the saliency (i.e., familiarity of the ambiguous word or phrase) and to pre-exposure (i.e., priming) to the items prior to testing. Priming makes the subject aware of the alternative (i.e., unfamiliar or rare) member of a phonetic ambiguity pair. In the present study, thirty-two 4 and 5 year olds were exposed to a tape containing familiar and rare ambiguity members and control items. One-half of them were primed. Results indicated that there was a strong beneficial effect of priming and saliency. The results of the present study were also compared with a previous adult study; this revealed a great deal of similarity between the two groups, implying 4 and 5 year olds can and do employ the same linguistic cues as adults.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission