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Auditory–visual speech perception in three- and four-year-olds and its relationship to perceptual attunement and receptive vocabulary*



Despite the body of research on auditory–visual speech perception in infants and schoolchildren, development in the early childhood period remains relatively uncharted. In this study, English-speaking children between three and four years of age were investigated for: (i) the development of visual speech perception – lip-reading and visual influence in auditory–visual integration; (ii) the development of auditory speech perception and native language perceptual attunement; and (iii) the relationship between these and a language skill relevant at this age, receptive vocabulary. Visual speech perception skills improved even over this relatively short time period. However, regression analyses revealed that vocabulary was predicted by auditory-only speech perception, and native language attunement, but not by visual speech perception ability. The results suggest that, in contrast to infants and schoolchildren, in three- to four-year-olds the relationship between speech perception and language ability is based on auditory and not visual or auditory–visual speech perception ability. Adding these results to existing findings allows elaboration of a more complete account of the developmental course of auditory–visual speech perception.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Dr Doğu Erdener, Psychology Program, Middle East Technical University–Northern Cyprus Campus, Kalkanlı, Güzelyurt (Morphou), KKTC via Mersin 10 Turkey. tel: +90 392 6613424; fax: +90 392 6612049; e-mail: and


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This research was partially supported by an Australian Postgraduate Award from the University of Western Sydney, and by an Australian Research Council Discovery grant (DP0558698) to the second author. The authors express their gratitude to Ms Amanda Reid for her invaluable contribution to the manuscript and analyses as well as the children and their parents, without whom this study would not have been possible.



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