Learning to speak by listening: Transfer of phonotactics from perception to production

Audrey K. Kittredge, Gary S. Dell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


The language production and perception systems rapidly learn novel phonotactic constraints. In production, for example, producing syllables in which /f/ is restricted to onset position (e.g. as /h/ is in English) causes one's speech errors to mirror that restriction. We asked whether or not perceptual experience of a novel phonotactic distribution transfers to production. In three experiments, participants alternated hearing and producing strings of syllables. In the same condition, the production and perception trials followed identical phonotactics (e.g. /f/ is onset). In the opposite condition, they followed reverse constraints (e.g. /f/ is onset for production, but /f/ is coda for perception). The tendency for speech errors to follow the production constraint was diluted when the opposite pattern was present on perception trials, thus demonstrating transfer of learning from perception to production. Transfer only occurred for perceptual tasks that may involve internal production, including an error monitoring task, which we argue engages production via prediction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-22
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Language perception
  • Language production
  • Learning
  • Phonotactics
  • Speech errors
  • Transfer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Artificial Intelligence

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