Infants' Ability to Learn New Words Across Accent
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The purpose of this study was to explore the phonetic flexibility of toddlers' early lexical representations. In this study (based on Schmale, et al., 2011), toddlers' ability to generalize newly learned words across speaker accent was measured using a split-screen preferential looking paradigm. Twenty-four toddlers (mean age = 29 months) were taught two new words by a Spanish-accented speaker and later tested by a native English speaker. One word had a phonological (vocalic) change across speaker accent (e.g., [fim]/[feem]), while the other word did not (e.g., [mef]/[mef]). Toddlers looked to the correct object significantly longer than chance only when the target label did not phonemically differ across accent. However, toddlers did not look longer to the non-phonemic target variant than the phonemic variant. High variability between subjects was noted and the potential need for additional exposure prior to testing infants on such a contrast is discussed.