From flexibility to constraint: the contrastive use of lexical tone in early word learning.

TitleFrom flexibility to constraint: the contrastive use of lexical tone in early word learning.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsHay JF, Estes KGraf, Wang T, Saffran JR
JournalChild Dev
Volume86
Issue1
Pagination10-22
Date Published2015 Jan-Feb
ISSN1467-8624
KeywordsFemale, Humans, Infant, Language Development, Learning, Male, Speech Perception
Abstract

Infants must develop both flexibility and constraint in their interpretation of acceptable word forms. The current experiments examined the development of infants' lexical interpretation of non-native variations in pitch contour. Fourteen-, 17-, and 19-month-olds (Experiments 1 and 2, N = 72) heard labels for two novel objects; labels contained the same syllable produced with distinct pitch contours (Mandarin lexical tones). The youngest infants learned the label-object mappings, but the older groups did not, despite being able to discriminate pitch differences in an object-free task (Experiment 3, N = 14). Results indicate that 14-month-olds remain flexible regarding what sounds make meaningful distinctions between words. By 17-19 months, experience with a nontonal native language constrains infants' interpretation of lexical tone.

DOI10.1111/cdev.12269
Alternate JournalChild Dev
PubMed ID25041105
PubMed Central IDPMC4295000
Grant ListP30 HD003352 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
F32HD557032 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
F32 HD055703 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R37HD037466 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R37 HD037466 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States