A Meta-Analysis of Infants’ Mispronunciation Sensitivity Development

AbstractBefore infants become mature speakers of their native language, they must acquire a robust word-recognition system which allows them to strike the balance between allowing some variation (mood, voice, accent) and recognizing variability that potentially changes meaning (e.g. cat vs hat). The current meta-analysis quantifies how the latter, termed mispronunciation sensitivity, changes over infants’ first three years, testing competing predictions of mainstream language acquisition theories. Our results show that infants were sensitive to mispronunciations, but accepted them as labels for target objects. Interestingly, and in contrast to predictions of mainstream theories, mispronunciation sensitivity was not modulated by infant age, suggesting that a sufficiently flexible understanding of native language phonology is in place at a young age.

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