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The role of geminates in infants' early word production and word-form recognition*



Infants learning languages with long consonants, or geminates, have been found to ‘overselect’ and ‘overproduce’ these consonants in early words and also to commonly omit the word-initial consonant. A production study with thirty Italian children recorded at 1;3 and 1;9 strongly confirmed both of these tendencies. To test the hypothesis that it is the salience of the medial geminate that detracts attention from the initial consonant we conducted three experiments with 11-month-old Italian infants. We first established baseline word-form recognition for untrained familiar trochaic disyllables and then tested for word-form recognition, separately for words with geminates and singletons, after changing the initial consonant to create nonwords from both familiar and rare forms. Familiar words with geminates were recognized despite the change, words with singletons were not. The findings indicate that a feature occurring later in the word affects initial consonant production and perception, which supports the whole-word phonology model.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Marilyn Vihman, Department of Language and Linguistic Science, University of York, Heslington, York YO10 5DD, United Kingdom. tel: +44 1904433612; e-mail:


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The authors would like to thank Tamar Keren-Portnoy for her help planning the analysis of the production data and both Rory A. DePaolis and Tamar Keren-Portnoy for their advice regarding the choice of stimuli and other aspects of the experimental design. We thank Andrea Capra, who kindly recorded the stimuli and helped to set up the experiments, Chiara Rainieri, who also helped with the experiments and carried out some analyses of the production data, and Laura Guidotti, who carefully checked the production data for all thirty children at two time-points. Last but not least we thank all of the families for their participation.



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The role of geminates in infants' early word production and word-form recognition*



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