Lexical retuning of children’s speech perception: Evidence for knowledge about words’ component sounds
McQueen, J. M., Tyler, M., & Cutler, A.
Lexical retuning of children’s speech perception: Evidence for knowledge about words’ component sounds. Language Learning and Development, 8
, 317-339. doi:10.1080/15475441.2011.641887.
Children hear new words from many different talkers; to learn words most efficiently, they should be able to represent them independently of talker-specific pronunciation detail. However, do children know what the component sounds of words should be, and can they use that knowledge to deal with different talkers' phonetic realizations? Experiment 1 replicated prior studies on lexically guided retuning of speech perception in adults, with a picture-verification methodology suitable for children. One participant group heard an ambiguous fricative ([s/f]) replacing /f/ (e.g., in words like giraffe); another group heard [s/f] replacing /s/ (e.g., in platypus). The first group subsequently identified more tokens on a Simpie-[s/f]impie-Fimpie toy-name continuum as Fimpie. Experiments 2 and 3 found equivalent lexically guided retuning effects in 12- and 6-year-olds. Children aged 6 have all that is needed for adjusting to talker variation in speech: detailed and abstract phonological representations and the ability to apply them during spoken-word recognition.