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Dev Psychol. 2003 May;39(3):484-94.

Pattern induction by infant language learners.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Waisman Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 53706, USA.


How do infants learn the sound patterns of their native language? By the end of the 1st year, infants have acquired detailed aspects of the phonology and phonotactics of their input language. However, the structure of the learning mechanisms underlying this process is largely unknown. In this study, 9-month-old infants were given the opportunity to induce specific phonological patterns in 3 experiments in which syllable structure, consonant voicing position, and segmental position were manipulated. Infants were then familiarized with fluent speech containing words that either fit or violated these patterns. Subsequent testing revealed that infants rapidly extracted new phonological regularities and that this process was constrained such that some regularities were easier to acquire than others.

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