[PS-1.22] Evaluating the relationship between auditory discrimination and novel vocabulary learning

Marecka, M. 1, 2 , McDonald, A. 2 , Madden, G. 2 & Fosker, T. 2

1 Faculty of English, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan
2 Language Learning and Literacy Laboratory, School of Psychology, Queen?s University Belfast

The ability to segment speech into smaller units and form robust phonological representations is important for learning new vocabulary (Hu, 2003; 2008; Ramachandra 2011). Arguably the ability to segment speech and ultimately consolidate phonological representations relies on a more fundamental skill to discriminate temporal changes in pitch and amplitude that impacts speech perception (e.g. Blumstein & Stevens, 1981; Fitch, Miller & Tallal, 1997). Here we directly hypothesised that greater sensitivity to temporal changes in pitch and amplitude would facilitate novel vocabulary learning. We measured auditory discrimination thresholds for temporal changes in pitch and amplitude in a group of monolingual adults. Then, using both behavioural and electrophysiological (ERP) methods, we measured the participants' novel word learning efficiency by teaching them pairings of novel words with abstract images. The learning rate and N400 priming of the words for the abstract images were used as measures of learning efficiency. Preliminary analyses show an association between auditory discrimination and learning rate. However, there was no evidence of an association between the strength of phonological representations (indexed by the N400 priming effect) and auditory discrimination. Implications for the relationship between auditory discrimination, segmentation, the formation of phonological representations and vocabulary learning will be discussed.