Syntactic Processing and Word Learning with a Degraded Auditory Signal

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The current study examined real-time processing and word learning in children receiving a degraded audio signal, similar to the signal children with cochlear implants hear. Using noise-vocoded stimuli, this study assessed whether increased uncertainty in the audio signal alters the developmental strategies available for word learning via syntactic cues. Normal-hearing children receiving a degraded signal were found to be able to differentiate between active and passive sentences nearly as well as those hearing natural speech. However, they had the most difficulty when correct interpretation of a sentence required revision of initial misinterpretations. This pattern is similar to that found with natural speech. While further testing is needed to confirm these effects, the current evidence suggests that a degraded signal may make revision even harder than it is in natural speech. This provides important information about language learning with a cochlear implant, with implications for intervention strategies.