Creel, S. C. (2014). Impossible to _gnore: Word-Form Inconsistency Slows Preschool Children’s Word-Learning. Language Learning and Development, 10(1), 68–95. doi:10.1080/15475441.2013.803871


Many studies have examined language acquisition under morphosyntactic or semantic inconsistency, but few have considered word-form inconsistency. Many young learners encounter word-form inconsistency due to accent variation in their communities. The current study asked how preschoolers recognize accent-variants of newly learned words. Can preschoolers generalize recognition based on partial match to the learned form? When learning in two accents simultaneously, do children ignore inconsistent elements, or encode two word forms (one per accent)? Three- to five-year-olds learned words in a novel-word learning paradigm but did not generalize to new accent-like pronunciations (Experiment 1) unless familiar-word recognition trials were interspersed (Experiments 3 and 4), which apparently generated a familiar-word-recognition pragmatic context. When exposure included two accent-variants per word, children were less accurate (Experiment 2) and slower to look to referents (Experiments 2, 5) relative to one-accent learning. Implications for language learning and accent processing over development are discussed.


Sarah Creel


Language Acquisition and Sound Recognition Lab