Toward a new model for speech perception: the Universal Perceptual Model (UPM) of second language

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Several speech models have been formed in the past aiming to predict the abilities of nonnative listeners or learners in perceiving and producing speech sounds. The present paper proposes a new model for speech perception, the Universal Perceptual Model of Second Language (henceforth, UPM). UPM assumes that second language phone acquisition is strongly affected by the speakers’ native language but still the window of phone learning is open due to the universality of speech sounds. Also, it supports that second language phones are initially activated as disoriented phonetic units. In this paper, we provide some initial insights into the predictability of the model. UPM uses degrees of overlap and chance criteria to form its predictions. We recruited Cypriot Greek novice learners of Italian who participated in two psychoacoustic tasks in which they classified and discriminated Italian vowels, respectively. The findings demonstrated that the degree of overlap between two nonnative phones may be a good predictor of the speakers’ discrimination accuracy over these phones. UPM might be a useful model which aims to better explain speech perception mechanisms and patterns of speech acquisition.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCognitive Processing
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • Italian vowels
  • Speech model
  • Speech perception
  • Universal Perceptual Model


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