The Effects of Talker Voice and Accent on Young Children's Speech Perception

Van Heugten, M., Bergmann, C., & Cristia, A. (2015). The Effects of Talker Voice and Accent on Young Children's Speech Perception. In S. Fuchs, D. Pape, C. Petrone, & P. Perrier (Eds.), Individual Differences in Speech Production and Perception (pp. 57-88). Bern: Peter Lang.
Within the first few years of life, children acquire many of the building blocks of their native language. This not only involves knowledge about the linguistic structure of spoken language, but also knowledge about the way in which this linguistic structure surfaces in their speech input. In this chapter, we review how infants and toddlers cope with differences between speakers and accents. Within the context of milestones in early speech perception, we examine how voice and accent characteristics are integrated during language processing, looking closely at the advantages and disadvantages of speaker and accent familiarity, surface-level deviation between two utterances, variability in the input, and prior speaker exposure. We conclude that although deviation from the child’s standard can complicate speech perception early in life, young listeners can overcome these additional challenges. This suggests that early spoken language processing is flexible and adaptive to the listening situation at hand.
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