The format of representation of recognized words in infants' early receptive lexicon
Journal/Book: Infant Behav Develop. 1996; 19: 355 Chestnut St, Norwood, NJ 07648. Ablex Publ Corp. 463-481.
Abstract: Eleven-month-olds can recognize a few auditorily presented familiar words in experimental situations where no hints are given by the intonation, the situation, or the presence of possible visual referents. That is, infants of this age (and possibly somewhat younger) can recognize words based on sound patterns alone. The issue addressed in this article is what is the type of mental representations infants use to code words they recognize. The results of a series of experiments with French-learning infants indicate that word representations in 11-month-olds are segmentally underspecified and suggest that they are all the more underspecified when infants engage in recognizing words rather than merely attending to meaningless speech sounds. But underspecification has limits, which were explored here with respect to word-initial consonants. The last two experiments show the way to investigating further these limits for word-initial consonants as well as for segments in other word positions. In French, infants' word representations are flexible enough to allow for structural changes in the voicing or even in the manner of articulation of word-initial consonants. Word-initial consonants must be present, however, for words to be recognized. In conclusion, a parallel is proposed between the emerging capacities to ignore variations that are irrelevant for word recognition in a ''lexical mode'' and to ignore variations that are phonemically irrelevant in a ''neutral mode'' of listening to native speech.
Note: Article Halle PA, CNRS, Expt Psychol Lab, 28 Rue Serpente, F-75006 Paris, FRANCE
Keyword(s): language acquisition; word recognition; receptive lexicon; word-form representations; SPEECH-PERCEPTION; SOUND PATTERNS; LANGUAGE-ACQUISITION; NATIVE LANGUAGE; REORGANIZATION; COMPREHENSION; NEIGHBORHOODS; SENSITIVITY; BEGINNINGS; CHILDREN