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Phonological representations in children's native and non-native lexicon*



This study investigated the phonological representations of vowels in children's native and non-native lexicons. Two experiments were mispronunciation tasks (i.e., a vowel in words was substituted by another vowel from the same language). These were carried out by Dutch-speaking 9–12-year-old children and Dutch-speaking adults, in their native (Experiment 1, Dutch) and non-native (Experiment 2, English) language. A third experiment tested vowel discrimination. In Dutch, both children and adults could accurately detect mispronunciations. In English, adults, and especially children, detected substitutions of native vowels (i.e., vowels that are present in the Dutch inventory) by non-native vowels more easily than changes in the opposite direction. Experiment 3 revealed that children could accurately discriminate most of the vowels. The results indicate that children's L1 categories strongly influenced their perception of English words. However, the data also reveal a hint of the development of L2 phoneme categories.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Ellen Simon, Ghent University, Linguistics Department, Muinkkaai 42, 9000 Ghent,


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The research reported in this study was supported by a Post-doctoral Research Grant from the Fund of Scientific Research – Flanders (FWO), awarded to the first author. The authors wish to thank all children and adults for their participation in the experiments, the school heads and teachers for their cooperation, two Dutch and English native speakers for recording stimuli, and Sarah Bernolet for help with retrieving pictures from the Ghent University Experimental Psychology picture database. The authors are grateful for helpful comments and suggestions from three anonymous Bilingualism: Language and Cognition reviewers.



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