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Constructing adequate non-speech analogues: what is special about speech anyway?


Address for correspondence: Stuart Rosen, Department of Phonetics and Linguistics, UCL, 4 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HE, UK; e-mail:


Vouloumanos and Werker (2007) claim that human neonates have a (possibly innate) bias to listen to speech based on a preference for natural speech utterances over sine-wave analogues. We argue that this bias more likely arises from the strikingly different saliency of voice melody in the two kinds of sounds, a bias that has already been shown to be learned pre-natally. Possible avenues of research to address this crucial issue are proposed, based on a consideration of the distinctive acoustic properties of speech.