Nov 22, 2018

A precursor of reading capacity? 3-month-old infants easily learn to pair a phoneme with a visual shape

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Karima MersadGhislaine Dehaene-Lambertz


Being aware of the phonemes that compose syllables is difficult without having learned to read an alphabetic script, a skill generally acquired around 5 to 7 years of age. Nevertheless, preverbal infants are particularly good at discriminating syllables that differ by a single phoneme. Do they perceive syllables as a whole unit or can they become aware of the underlying phonemes if their attention is attracted to the relevant level of analysis? We trained 3-month-old infants to pair two consonants, co-articulated with different vowels, with two visual shapes. Using event-related potentials, we show that infants generalize the learned associations to new syllables with respect to a familiarization phase. The systematic pairing of a visual label with a phonetic category is thus easy to learn, suggesting that the main process underlying reading (i.e., grapheme-phoneme pairing) is grounded in the early faculties of the human linguistic system.

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Potentials, Event-Related

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