Environmental influences on infants’ native vowel discrimination: The case of talker number in daily life
Bergmann, C., & Cristia, A.
Environmental influences on infants’ native vowel discrimination: The case of talker number in daily life. Infancy, 23
(4), 484-501. doi:10.1111/infa.12232.
Both quality and quantity of speech from the primary caregiver have been found to impact language development. A third aspect of the input has been largely ignored: the number of talkers who provide input. Some infants spend most of their waking time with only one person; others hear many different talkers. Even if the very same words are spoken the same number of times, the pronunciations can be more variable when several talkers pronounce them. Is language acquisition affected by the number of people who provide input? To shed light on the possible link between how many people provide input in daily life and infants’ native vowel discrimination, three age groups were tested: 4-month-olds (before attunement to native vowels), 6-month-olds (at the cusp of native vowel attunement) and 12-month-olds (well attuned to the native vowel system). No relationship was found between talker number and native vowel discrimination skills in 4- and 6-month-olds, who are overall able to discriminate the vowel contrast. At 12 months, we observe a small positive relationship, but further analyses reveal that the data are also compatible with the null hypothesis of no relationship. Implications in the context of infant language acquisition and cognitive development are discussed.