Developmental shift in the discrimination of vowel contrasts in bilingual infants: is the distributional account all there is to it?
Article first published online: 6 APR 2009
© 2009 The Authors. Journal compilation © 2009 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Volume 12, Issue 6, pages 874–887, November 2009
How to Cite
Sebastián-Gallés, N. and Bosch, L. (2009), Developmental shift in the discrimination of vowel contrasts in bilingual infants: is the distributional account all there is to it?. Developmental Science, 12: 874–887. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2009.00829.x
- Issue published online: 14 OCT 2009
- Article first published online: 6 APR 2009
- Received: 7 March 2008 Accepted: 4 August 2008
A shift from language-general to language-specific sound discrimination abilities has been largely attested in different populations of infants during the second half of the first year of life; however, data are still scarce regarding bilingual populations. Previous research with 4-, 8- and 12-month-old Catalan-Spanish bilingual infants had offered evidence of a U-shaped pattern in their ability to discriminate a language-specific vowel contrast. This research explores monolingual and bilingual 4- and 8-month-olds’ capacities to discriminate two common vowel contrasts: /o–u/ and /e–u/. All groups succeeded except 8-month-old bilinguals tested on the phonetically close /o–u/ contrast. Discrimination was not facilitated when talker and token variability were reduced. A U-shaped pattern was again found when data from an additional group of 12-month-olds were included. These results confirm bilinguals’ specific developmental pattern of perceptual reorganization for acoustically close vowels and challenge an interpretation merely based on a distributional account.