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J Mem Lang. 2009 Feb;60(2):252.

Onsets and codas in 1.5-year-olds' word recognition.

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Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, 3401 Walnut St. 302C, Philadelphia, PA 19104.


Previous tests of toddlers' phonological knowledge of familiar words using word recognition tasks have examined syllable onsets but not word-final consonants (codas). However, there are good reasons to suppose that children's knowledge of coda consonants might be less complete than their knowledge of onset consonants. To test this hypothesis, the present study examined 14- to 21-month-old children's knowledge of the phonological forms of familiar words by measuring their comprehension of correctly-pronounced and mispronounced instances of those words using a visual fixation task. Mispronunciations substituted onset or coda consonants. Adults were tested in the same task for comparison with children. Children and adults fixated named targets more upon hearing correct pronunciations than upon hearing mispronunciations, whether those mispronunciations involved the word's initial or final consonant. In addition, detailed analysis of the timing of adults' and children's eye movements provided clear evidence for incremental interpretation of the speech signal. Children's responses were slower and less accurate overall, but children and adults showed nearly identical temporal effects of the placement of phonological substitutions. The results demonstrate accurate encoding of consonants even in words children cannot yet say.

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