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Phonological specificity in early words

Bailey, Todd M. and Plunkett, Kim 2002. Phonological specificity in early words. Cognitive Development 17 (2) , pp. 1265-1282. 10.1016/S0885-2014(02)00116-8

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Young children often fail to distinguish words differing by a single phoneme. It has been suggested that the phonological representations associated with early words are under-specified, with detail being added either as required to distinguish more words as a child’s vocabulary increases, or as a function of the amount of exposure a child has had to a particular word. We report on an inter-modal preferential looking task in which 48, 18- and 24-month-olds heard either accurate pronunciations of picture names or slight (1- or 2-feature) mispronunciations. Each child was tested on four words that they learned at a very young age, and four words they had learned only recently relative to the test session. Across all children, 30 different words were tested. Analysis of children’s looking behavior found differences between their responses to accurate and inaccurate pronunciations. These results show that toddlers’ representations for words have enough detail to detect even slight mispronunciations. This ability was unaffected by their age, the size of their receptive vocabulary, the neighborhood density of individual test words, or the recency with which words had been learned. The results suggest that the specificity of lexical representations may be unrelated to any of these factors, at least within the range of ages and word familiarity examined in this study.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Uncontrolled Keywords: Phonological specificity ; Young children ; Lexical representation ; Auditory word recognition ; Speech perception ; Phoneme development
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0885-2014
Last Modified: 05 Jun 2020 02:30

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