An Electrophysiological Study of Infants' Sensitivity to the Sound Patterns of English Speech The study explores 10- to 11-month-old infants' sensitivity to the phonological characteristics of their native language. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were obtained for tones that were superimposed on two versions of a story: an Unmodified version containing normal English function morphemes, and a Modified version in which the prosodic and segmental ... Research Article
Research Article  |   August 01, 1998
An Electrophysiological Study of Infants' Sensitivity to the Sound Patterns of English Speech
 
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Valerie L. Shafer
    Hofstra University Hempstead, NY
  • David W. Shucard
    State University of New York at Buffalo
  • Janet L. Shucard
    State University of New York at Buffalo
  • LouAnn Gerken
    University of Arizona Tucson
  • Contact author: Valerie L. Shafer, Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, 106 Davison Hall, Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY 11550.
Article Information
Hearing & Speech Perception / Acoustics / Speech, Voice & Prosody / Language / Research Articles
Research Article   |   August 01, 1998
An Electrophysiological Study of Infants' Sensitivity to the Sound Patterns of English Speech
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1998, Vol. 41, 874-886. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4104.874
History: Received November 15, 1996 , Accepted October 21, 1997
 
Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, August 1998, Vol. 41, 874-886. doi:10.1044/jslhr.4104.874
History: Received November 15, 1996; Accepted October 21, 1997

The study explores 10- to 11-month-old infants' sensitivity to the phonological characteristics of their native language. Event-related potentials (ERPs) were obtained for tones that were superimposed on two versions of a story: an Unmodified version containing normal English function morphemes, and a Modified version in which the prosodic and segmental properties of a subset of function morphemes were changed to make them atypical. The 11-month-olds exhibited significantly lower amplitude ERPs to the tones during the Modified story than to the Unmodified story, whereas the 10-month-olds showed no differences. These results suggest that the 11-month-olds discriminated the two versions of the story based on their representations of the phonological properties of English. Further, the tone-probe ERP method can successfully be used to study the development of speech perception in the pre-linguistic infant.

Acknowledgments
This research was supported in part by a Center Award from the Center for Cognitive Science, SUNY at Buffalo, to support the first author; by the Department of Neurology Research fund during the period in which the experiment was conducted; and by Public Health Service Grant NIDCD T32DC00039 to support the first author at The Graduate School and University Center, CUNY. The experiment was carried out at the Department of Neurology, Division of Developmental and Behavioral Neurosciences, SUNY at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Some of the results of this manuscript were presented at the Boston University Conference on Language Development, November, 1992, and the Society for Neuroscience Meetings, November, 1992.
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