Phonetic and phonological approaches to early word recognition

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This paper reviews two methodological paradigms and three theoretical proposals put forward to investigate infants’ sensitivity to phonetic detail in early word recognition. The results of studies using the first methodological paradigm suggest that infants are unable to use phonetic detail when accessing the representations of newly learned words. In contrast, infants tested using the second methodological paradigm generally succeed at identifying small differences between words. The three theoretical proposals differ in the extent to which they can explain the rate of success in infant word recognition. Methodological adaptations and new research directions to bridge the gap between methodologies and theories are presented.


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