Investigating the emergence of speech communication – A study on infants’ ability to predict phonetic information  

Klintfors, E., Lacerda, F., & Marklund, E.

Contribution to The Second European Cognitive Science Conference (EuroCogSci 07), Delphi, Grekland, 23-27 May, 2007.


The introduction of this paper provides an overview of infants’ prediction skills of action goals, as well as their ability to predict perceptual acoustic information. Prediction skills’ neurological correlates in general are discussed. A central hypothesis under investigation is that there are commonalities between the development of speech and manipulation. The current research is focused on the communication mode investigating infants’ ability to associate images of familiar objects with auditory-stimuli presented both as whole words in intact form and as disrupted (partly noise-replaced) spoken words. The looking behaviour of the infants’ was measured with the Tobii eye-tracking device. The results suggested that 11 to 16 month-old infants recognize the target object when the word referring to it was intact, i.e. when the name of the object was presented in its entirety. However, the infants did not seem to recognize the target object when the word referring to it was partially masked so that only its initial phonetic information was presented. These results indicate that young infants are sensitive to the phonetic information of the words and may need more extensive linguistic experience in order to derive full lexical forms from partially masked words. The paper concludes with suggestions for future demonstrations of infant anticipation of speech.


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