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Stem similarity modulates infants' acquisition of phonological alternations

Sundara, M; White, J; Kim, YJ; Chong, AJ; (2021) Stem similarity modulates infants' acquisition of phonological alternations. Cognition , 209 , Article 104573. 10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104573. Green open access

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Abstract

Phonemes have variant pronunciations depending on context. For instance, in American English, the [t] in pat [pæt] and the [d] in pad [pæd] are both realized with a tap [ɾ] when the –ing suffix is attached, [pæɾɪŋ]. We show that despite greater distributional and acoustic support for the [t]-tap alternation, 12-month-olds successfully relate taps to stems with a perceptually-similar final [d], not the dissimilar final-[t]. Thus, distributional learning of phonological alternations is constrained by infants' preference for the alternation of perceptually-similar segments. Further, the ability to relate variant surface forms emerges between 8- and 12-months. Our findings of biased learning provide further empirical support for a role for perceptual similarity in the acquisition of linguistically-relevant categories. We discuss the implications of our findings for phonological theory, language acquisition and models of the mental lexicon.

Type: Article
Title: Stem similarity modulates infants' acquisition of phonological alternations
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104573
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2020.104573
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Acquisition, Phoneme, Morphology, Allophones, Variants
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Brain Sciences > Div of Psychology and Lang Sciences > Linguistics
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10118401
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