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Cross-linguistic perception in infancy: early effects of linguistic experience*

  • Rebecca E. Eilers (a1), William J. Gavin (a1) and D. Kimbrough Oller (a1)


The possibility that early linguistic experience affects infant speech perception was investigated in a cross-linguistic study with naturally produced speech stimuli. Using the Visually Reinforced Infant Speech Discrimination paradigm, three contrasts were presented to Spanish-and English-learning infants 6–8 months of age. Both groups of infants showed statistically significant discrimination of two contrasts, English and Czech. Only the Spanish-learning infants provided evidence of discrimination of the Spanish contrast. The groups discriminated the English contrast at similarly high levels, but the Spanish-learning infants showed significantly higher performance than the English on both the Spanish and the Czech contrast. The results indicate that early experience does affect early discrimination, and further (since the stimuli were natural) that the effect may be of practical consequence in language learning.



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This research was supported by NIMH grant MH 30634. We would like to thank Dr Rebecca Warner for her aid in preparing this manuscript. Address for correspondence: Mailman Center for Child Development, P.O. Box 016820, Miami, FL 33101, U.S.A.



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Cross-linguistic perception in infancy: early effects of linguistic experience*

  • Rebecca E. Eilers (a1), William J. Gavin (a1) and D. Kimbrough Oller (a1)


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