Published In

Language Acquisition

Document Type


Publication Date



Children -- Language, Language acquisition, Phonology (Grammar)


Children are adept at learning their language’s speech-sound categories, but just how these categories function in their developing lexicon has not been mapped out in detail. Here, we addressed whether, in a language-guided looking procedure, 2-year-olds would respond to a mispronunciation of the voicing of the initial consonant of a newly learned word. First, to provide a baseline of mature native-speaker performance, adults were taught a new word under training conditions of low prosodic variability. In a second experiment, 24- and 30-month-olds were taught a new word under training conditions of high or low prosodic variability. Children and adults showed evidence of learning the taught word. Adults’ target looking was reduced when the novel word was realized at test with a change in the voicing of the initial consonant, but children did not show any such decrement in target fixation. For both children and adults, most learners did not treat the phonologically distinct variant as a different word. Acoustic-phonetic variability during teaching did not have consistent effects. Thus, under conditions of intensive short-term training, 24- and 30-month-olds did not differentiate a newly learned word from a variant differing only in consonant voicing. High task complexity during training could explain why mispronunciation detection was weaker here than in some prior studies.


Copyright © 2022 by Carolyn M. Quam and Daniel Swingley.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.


This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Language Acquisition. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Language Acquisition.

The data that supports this article is available in PDXScholar and can be found here:



Persistent Identifier

Available for download on Thursday, June 01, 2023