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Perceptual beginnings to language acquisition

  • Janet F. WERKER (a1)


In this article, I present a selective review of research on speech perception development and its relation to reference, word learning, and other aspects of language acquisition, focusing on the empirical and theoretical contributions that have come from my laboratory over the years. Discussed are the biases infants have at birth for processing speech, the mechanisms by which universal speech perception becomes attuned to the properties of the native language, and the extent to which changing speech perception sensitivities contribute to language learning. These issues are reviewed from the perspective of both monolingual and bilingual learning infants. Two foci will distinguish this from my previous reviews: first and foremost is the extent to which contrastive meaning and referential intent are not just shaped by, but also shape, changing speech perception sensitivities, and second is the extent to which infant speech perception is multisensory and its implications for both theory and methodology.


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ADDRESS FOR CORRESPONDENCE Janet F. Werker, Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, 2136 West Mall, Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z4, Canada. E-mail:


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