Object Familiarity Enhances Infants’ Use of Phonetic Detail in Novel Words
Infants greatly refine their ability to discriminate language sounds by 12 months, yet 14‐month‐olds appear to confuse similar‐sounding novel words. Two explanations could account for this phenomenon: infants initially have incomplete phoneme representations, suggesting developmental discontinuity; or word‐learning demands interfere with use of established phonetic detail. These hypotheses were tested at 14 months by pairing a novel word with an object preexposed to half the infants and novel to the other half. If demands are key, only preexposed infants should efficiently use phonetic detail; there is no need to concurrently learn object details with the word. If representations lack detail, object familiarity should not matter. Only infants preexposed to the object noticed a change in its label, thus challenging the discontinuity position and demonstrating the impact of object familiarity on early word learning.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
10.1111/j.1532-7078.2011.00080.x About DOI