Nivedita Mani and Kim Plunkett (2011)

Does size matter? Subsegmental cues to vowel mispronunciation detection

Journal of Child Language, 38(3):606-627.

Children look longer at a familiar object when presented with either correct pronunciations or small mispronunciations of consonants in the object's label, but not following larger mispronunciations. The current article examines whether children display a similar graded sensitivity to different degrees of mispronunciations of the vowels in familiar words, by testing children's sensitivity to 1-feature, 2-feature and 3-feature mispronunciations of the vowels of familiar labels: Children aged 1;6 did not show a graded sensitivity to vowel mispronunciations, even when the trial length was increased to allow them more time to form a response. Two-year-olds displayed a robust sensitivity to increases in vowel mispronunciation size, differentiating between small and large mispronunciations. While this suggests that early lexical representations contain information about the features contributing to vocalic identity, we present evidence that this graded sensitivity is better explained by the acoustic characteristics of the different mispronunciation types presented to children.

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