Jan Edwards, PhD

Slide of the Week: Jan Edwards, PhD

Legend: Fig. 1. The tokens of the determiner the for the three item types. Note the canonical formant transitions for the facilitating tokens and the steady formant values in the neutral token. Fig. 2.  Proportion looking to target from onset of the to 1250 ms after target-word onset in the two conditions. Symbols and error bars represent observed means ± SE. Dashed vertical lines mark onset of the, target-word onset, and target-word offset.

Citation:  Mahr T, McMillan BT, Saffran JR, Ellis Weismer S, Edwards J. (2015). Anticipatory coarticulation facilitates word recognition in toddlers.  Cognition. 142:345-50. doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2015.05.009.

Abstract: Children learn from their environments and their caregivers. To capitalize on learning opportunities, young children have to recognize familiar words efficiently by integrating contextual cues across word boundaries. Previous research has shown that adults can use phonetic cues from anticipatory coarticulation during word recognition. We asked whether 18-24 month-olds (n=29) used coarticulatory cues on the word “the” when recognizing the following noun. We performed a looking-while-listening eyetracking experiment to examine word recognition in neutral vs. facilitating coarticulatory conditions. Participants looked to the target image significantly sooner when the determiner contained facilitating coarticulatory cues. These results provide the first evidence that novice word-learners can take advantage of anticipatory sub-phonemic cues during word recognition.

About the investigator:  Edward’s research aims to better understand phonological development – the process of learning to talk – in preschool children. Although most adults take the ability to speak for granted, children who are learning language must actually acquire and synthesize a complex system of sounds, words, and social understanding. Doing so competently supports future language development, reading ability, and academic achievement. Learningtotalk.org describes her research on typically developing children and children with cochlear implants. Littlelisteners.waisman.wisc.edu describes research on children with autism spectrum disorders.

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