Before the word: acquiring a phoneme inventory

Titia Benders, Nicole Altvater-Mackensen

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    One of the benchmark questions parents are asked about their child’s language development is ‘Does she already say some words?’. While the first word is very tangible proof that a child’s language development has taken off, that first word is part of a developmental trajectory including babbling, word comprehension and–one of infants’ very first accomplishments on the way to the first word–the acquisition of language-specific sound perception. The current chapter reviews the main experimental findings and theoretical positions on infants’ acquisition of the native phoneme system. In particular, we will discuss how speech perception and production evolve in the early stages of language development and how speech perception shows continuity with later word learning. We first introduce general developments in speech perception and production in the first year of life and present the main theoretical views on the developmental relationship between perception, production and word learning. The second and third parts examine the acquisition of particular contrasts in speech perception, speech production and word learning, highlighting the parallels in development across domains and discussing their potential interplay. The chapter will conclude with avenues for future research.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEarly word learning
    EditorsGert Westermann, Nivedita Mani
    Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
    PublisherTaylor & Francis
    Number of pages14
    ISBN (Electronic)9781317550594, 9781315730974
    ISBN (Print)9781138843516, 9781138843523
    Publication statusPublished - 2018

    Publication series

    NameCurrent issues in developmental psychology


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