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Spoken word recognition and lexical representation in very young children

Summary: Spoken word recognition and lexical
representation in very young children
Daniel Swingley*, Richard N. Aslin
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Meliora Hall, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY
14627, USA
Received 18 October 1999; received in revised form 2 February 2000; accepted 24 March 2000
Although children's knowledge of the sound patterns of words has been a focus of debate
for many years, little is known about the lexical representations very young children use in
word recognition. In particular, researchers have questioned the degree of speci®city encoded
in early lexical representations. The current study addressed this issue by presenting 18±23-
month-olds with object labels that were either correctly pronounced, or mispronounced.
Mispronunciations involved replacement of one segment with a similar segment, as in
`baby±vaby'. Children heard sentences containing these words while viewing two pictures,
one of which was the referent of the sentence. Analyses of children's eye movements showed
that children recognized the spoken words in both conditions, but that recognition was
signi®cantly poorer when words were mispronounced. The effects of mispronunciation on
recognition were unrelated to age or to spoken vocabulary size. The results suggest that
children's representations of familiar words are phonetically well-speci®ed, and that this
speci®cation may not be a consequence of the need to differentiate similar words in produc-


Source: Aslin, Richard N. - Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester


Collections: Biology and Medicine