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Child Dev. 1981 Mar;52(1):349-55.

Developmental aspects of cross-language speech perception.


Previous research has suggested that infants discriminate many speech sounds according to phonemic category regardless of language exposure, while adults of one language group may have difficulty discriminating nonnative linguistic contrasts. Our study attempted to address directly questions about infant perceptual ability and the possibility of its decline as a function of development in the absence of specific experience by comparing English-speaking adults, Hindi-speaking adults, and 7-month-old infants on their ability to discriminate 2 pairs of natural Hindi (non-English) speech contrasts. To do this, infants were tested in a "visually reinforced infant speech discrimination" paradigm, while a variant of this paradigm was used to test adults. Support was obtained for the above hypotheses. Infants were shown to be able to discriminate both Hindi sound pairs, and support for the idea of a decrease in speech perceptual abilities wih age and experience was clearly evident with the rarer of the 2 non-English contrasts. The results were then discussed with respect to the possible nature and purpose of these abilities.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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