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Questioning the role of lexical contrastiveness in phonological development: Converging evidence from perception and production studies

  • Yvan Rose (a1) and Sarah Blackmore (a2)


In this article, we address relations between lexical and phonological development, with an emphasis on the notion of phonological contrast. We begin with an overview of the literature on word learning and on infant speech perception. Among other results, we report on studies showing that toddlers’ perceptual abilities do not correlate with the development of phonological contrasts within their lexicons. We then engage in a systematic comparison between the lexical development of two child learners of English and their acquisition of consonants in syllable onsets. We establish a developmental timeline for each child's onset consonant system, which we compare to the types of phonological contrasts that are present in their expressive vocabularies at each relevant milestone. Like the earlier studies, ours also fails to return tangible parallels between the two areas of development. The data instead suggest that patterns of phonological development are best described in terms of the segmental categories they involve, in relative independence from measures of contrastiveness within the learners’ lexicons.

Dans cet article, nous examinons certaines relations entre le développement lexical et le développement phonologique, en mettant l'accent sur la notion de contraste phonologique. Nous débutons avec un survol de la littérature sur l'acquisition de mots et sur la perception de la parole chez les enfants. Entre autres résultats, nous mettons en évidence des études qui montrent que les aptitudes perceptuelles des enfants ne semblent pas correspondre avec l'acquisition de contrastes phonologiques au sein de leur lexique mental. Nous effectuons ensuite une comparaison systématique entre le développement lexical chez deux apprenants de l'anglais et leur acquisition des consonnes en attaque syllabique. Nous établissons une séquence développementale pour le système consonantique de chacun des enfants, que nous comparons aux types de contrastes phonologiques présents dans le vocabulaire d'expression des enfants à chacun des stades d'acquisition consonantique. À l'instar des études antérieures, notre étude ne permet d'établir aucun parallèle tangible entre ces deux domaines de développement. Les données suggèrent, au contraire, que les modèles de développement phonologique sont mieux décrits en fonction des catégories segmentales en cause, en relative indépendance de mesures de contrastes phonologiques au sein du lexique des apprenants.


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We thank Barbara Davis, from the University of Texas, Austin, for her generous sharing of the production and CDI data we consider here. We are also grateful to Tania Zamuner for her tremendous feedback on previous versions of this work, as well as to three anonymous reviewers for their useful and constructive input. Finally, we thank Sophie Kern, Director of the Laboratoire Dynamique du Langage, who encouraged us to pursue this work, first explored in the context of the PREMS research project. All errors and omissions remain our own.



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Questioning the role of lexical contrastiveness in phonological development: Converging evidence from perception and production studies

  • Yvan Rose (a1) and Sarah Blackmore (a2)


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