15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

The Acquisition of Language Specific Phonetic Categories in Infancy

Janet F. Werker

University of British Columbia, Canada

Maye, Werker, and Gerken (2002) have recently shown that distributional learning may allow tuning of phonetic categories during the first year of life. This paper explores the power and potential limits of such a learning mechanism. Burns, Werker & McVie (2003) showed the pattern of age-related change in consonant perception to be different for bilingual (French/English) than monolingual infants, with bilingual infants ultimately retaining sensitivity to the voicing distinctions from both of their native languages. The potential role of distributional learning in accounting for this difference will be discussed. But can distributional learning account for phonological and lexical acquisition? The final portion of this paper reviews recent research addressing this question.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Werker, Janet F. (2003): "The acquisition of language specific phonetic categories in infancy", In ICPhS-15, 21-26.