Global and detailed speech representations in early language acquisition
PIERRE HALLÉ ALEJANDRINA CRISTIA Abstract: We review data and hypotheses dealing with the mental representations for perceived and produced speech that infants build and use over the course of learn- ing a language. In the early stages of speech perception and vocal production, before the emergence of a receptive or a productive lexicon, the dominant picture emerging from the literature suggests rather non-analytic representations based on units of the size of the syllable: Young children seem to parse speech into syllable-sized units in spite of their ability to detect sound equivalence based on shared phonetic features. Once a productive lexicon has emerged, word form representations are initially rather underspeciﬁed phonetically but gradually become more speciﬁed with lexical growth, up to the phoneme level. The situation is different for the receptive lexicon, in which phonetic speciﬁcation for consonants and vowels seem to follow different develop- mental paths. Consonants in stressed syllables are somewhat well speciﬁed already at the ﬁrst signs of a receptive lexicon, and become even better speciﬁed with lexical growth. Vowels seem to follow a different developmental path, with increasing ﬂex- ibility throughout lexical development. Thus, children come to exhibit a consonant- vowel asymmetry in lexical representations, which is clear in adult representations. 1 Introduction To begin with, what do we mean by speech representations? We simply refer to the mental representations that speakers/listeners of a given lan- guage have built during acquisition and use to produce and understand spoken utterances of their language....
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