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J Child Lang. 2014 Sep;41(5):1062-84. doi: 10.1017/S0305000913000330. Epub 2013 Aug 28.

Children's perception of dialect variation.

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Ohio State University.
Macquarie University.


A speaker's regional dialect is a rich source of information about that person. Two studies examined five- to six-year-old children's perception of regional dialect: Can they perceive differences among dialects? Have they made meaningful social connections to specific dialects? Experiment 1 asked children to categorize speakers into groups based on their accent; Experiment 2 asked them to match speakers to (un)familiar cultural items. Each child was tested with two of the following: the child's Home dialect, a Regional variant of that dialect, and a Second-Language variant. Results showed that children could successfully categorize only with a Home vs. Second-Language dialect contrast, but could reliably link cultural items with either a Home vs. Second-Language or a Regional vs. Second-Language dialect contrast. These results demonstrate five- to six-year-old children's developing perceptual skill with dialect, and suggest that they have a gradient representation of dialect variation.

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