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The development of phonetic representation in bilingual and monolingual infants


The development of native language phonetic representations in bilingual infants was compared to that of monolingual infants. Infants (ages 6–8, 10–12, and 14–20 months) from English–French or English-only environments were tested on their ability to discriminate a French and an English voice onset time distinction. Although 6- to 8-month-olds responded similarly irrespective of language environment, by 10–12 months both groups of infants displayed language-specific perceptual abilities: the monolinguals demonstrated realignment to the native English boundary whereas the bilinguals began discriminating both native boundaries. This suggests that infants exposed to two languages from birth are equipped to phonetically process each as a native language and the development of phonetic representation is neither delayed nor compromised by additional languages.

Corresponding author
Tracey C. Burns, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development/CERI, 2 Rue André Pascal, Paris 75775, Cedex 16, France. E-mail:
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Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
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