1932

Abstract

Adult processing of other-accented speech is fast, dependent on lexical access, and readily generalizable to new words. But what does children's processing of other-accented speech look like? Although many acquisition researchers have emphasized how other-accented speech presents a formidable challenge to young children, we argue that the field has perhaps underestimated children's early accent processing abilities. In support of this view, we present evidence that 2-year-olds’ accent processing abilities appear to be in many respects adult-like, and discuss the growing literature on children's ability to cope with multi-accent input in the natural world. We outline different theoretical outlooks on the transition children make from infancy to later childhood, and discuss how the growing sophistication of infants’ accent processing abilities feeds into their social perception of the world (and perhaps vice versa). We also argue that efficient processing and meaningful interpretation of accent variation are fundamental to human cognition, and that early proficiency with accent variation (along with all of the implied representational and learning capacities) is difficult to explain without assuming the early emergence of abstract speech representations.

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2022-01-14
2024-06-14
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