Mirjam de Jonge MSc, ACLC, Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam

Origin of Asymmetry: what we do and do not know about directional differences of the Mismatch Negativity

21Sept2018 16:15 - 17:30


Mirjam de Jonge is the guest speaker at this ACLC seminar.


Directional differences of the Mismatch Negativity (MMN) have been reported for various speech sound contrasts, and these are often attributed to the phonological representations of the speech sounds involved. In a series of experiments, we used French vowels played to French listeners to investigate whether reported and predicted MMN asymmetries could be obtained. For vowel place, we found the by now well-established FRONT > BACK asymmetry in this new population. For vowel height, the asymmetries we found appear to depend on the experimental context; we found the predicted MID > HIGH asymmetry in a study with only rounded vowels, but when multiple levels of vowel height were contrasted with unrounded vowels we only found overall effects of distance and direction in the vowel space, but no patterns that could easily be related to phonological representations. The results of an experiment comparing responses to vowels with responses to different types of non-speech point to the relevance of spectral properties in eliciting asymmetries: while responses to pure tones showed the opposite pattern of responses to vowels, responses to non-speech stimuli with a similar spectral envelope as vowels did follow the vowel pattern. In conclusion, while accounts of directional asymmetries of the MMN in terms of phonological features are compatible with part of our data, there is still much work to be done in mapping out the neural reflections of the complex signal space that is speech.


Published by  ACLC