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Cognition. 2006 Jun;100(2):369-88. Epub 2005 Aug 22.

Language-experience facilitates discrimination of /d-th/ in monolingual and bilingual acquisition of English.

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  • 1School of Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University, Montreal Que., Canada.


To trace how age and language experience shape the discrimination of native and non-native phonetic contrasts, we compared 4-year-olds learning either English or French or both and simultaneous bilingual adults on their ability to discriminate the English /d-th/ contrast. Findings show that the ability to discriminate the native English contrast improved with age. However, in the absence of experience with this contrast, discrimination of French children and adults remained unchanged during development. Furthermore, although simultaneous bilingual and monolingual English adults were comparable, children exposed to both English and French were poorer at discriminating this contrast when compared to monolingual English-learning 4-year-olds. Thus, language experience facilitates perception of the English /d-th/ contrast and this facilitation occurs later in development when English and French are acquired simultaneously. The difference between bilingual and monolingual acquisition has implications for language organization in children with simultaneous exposure.

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