Early word recognition and later language skills

Junge, C., & Cutler, A. (2014). Early word recognition and later language skills. Brain sciences, 4(4), 532-559. doi:10.3390/brainsci4040532.
Recent behavioral and electrophysiological evidence has highlighted the long-term importance for language skills of an early ability to recognize words in continuous speech. We here present further tests of this long-term link in the form of follow-up studies conducted with two (separate) groups of infants who had earlier participated in speech segmentation tasks. Each study extends prior follow-up tests: Study 1 by using a novel follow-up measure that taps into online processing, Study 2 by assessing language performance relationships over a longer time span than previously tested. Results of Study 1 show that brain correlates of speech segmentation ability at 10 months are positively related to 16-month-olds’ target fixations in a looking-while-listening task. Results of Study 2 show that infant speech segmentation ability no longer directly predicts language profiles at the age of five. However, a meta-analysis across our results and those of similar studies (Study 3) reveals that age at follow-up does not moderate effect size. Together, the results suggest that infants’ ability to recognize words in speech certainly benefits early vocabulary development; further observed relationships of later language skills to early word recognition may be consequent upon this vocabulary size effect.
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