Activities and Seminars

Cathi Best, University of Western Sydney, Australia
Date: Jun 30, 2011

What: The acquisition of phonological constancy: Evidence from

What: The acquisition of phonological constancy: Evidence from cross-dialect studies of toddlers’ spoken word recognition

When: Thursday, June 30th, 5:00pm

Who: Cathi Best, University of Western Sydney, Australia

Where: BCBL, Paseo Mikeletegi 69, Floor 2.


Numerous prior findings indicate that 19-month-olds detect minimal-pair phonetic distinctions in newly-learned and already-known words more quickly and reliably than 14-15 month-olds. Those studies all employed single-phoneme manipulations (“mispronunciations”) of words the child knew or had been taught, which essentially tests the children¹s sensitivity to phonological distinctiveness. I will present findings from our lab that indicate a similar trajectory in emergence of the complementary ability to recognize the “phonological constancy” of familiar words even when they are pronounced in ways the child has not experienced, i.e., produced in an unfamiliar regional accent of the child’s native language. We recently reported findings that 19- but not 15-month-olds can recognize words in an unfamiliar accent (Best, Tyler, Gooding, Orlando & Quann, 2009). I will also present several follow-up studies showing that the younger age has difficulty recognizing even native-accented words when stimulus variability is increased (more speakers, words, and tokens), that vocabulary size rather than age per se is the correlate of stable versus unstable phonological constancy, and that these patterns hold up across measures of word identification as well as listening preferences for familiar words. Implications for understanding the relationship between vocabulary development and the growth of phonological skills will be discussed.