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English-learning one- to two-year-olds do not show a consonant bias in word learning*



Following the proposal that consonants are more involved than vowels in coding the lexicon (Nespor, Peña & Mehler, 2003), an early lexical consonant bias was found from age 1;2 in French but an equal sensitivity to consonants and vowels from 1;0 to 2;0 in English. As different tasks were used in French and English, we sought to clarify this ambiguity by using an interactive word-learning study similar to that used in French, with British-English-learning toddlers aged 1;4 and 1;11. Children were taught two CVC labels differing on either a consonant or vowel and tested on their pairing of a third object named with one of the previously taught labels, or part of them. In concert with previous research on British-English toddlers, our results provided no evidence of a general consonant bias. The language-specific mechanisms explaining the differential status for consonants and vowels in lexical development are discussed.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Caroline Floccia, Plymouth University – School of Psychology, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, United Kingdom. e-mail:


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This research was conducted thanks to a bilateral ESRC/ANR grant RES-062-33-0001. Many thanks to Melanie Havy and Ian Dennis for their help during the writing of this paper.



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