In infants, positive as well as negative mismatch responses have been reported for speech stimuli presented in oddball paradigms (†; ‡; §; ¶). Given that the processes underlying these polarity differences are not yet fully understood, we focused on the negative mismatch response previously linked to native-language phonetic learning in research that used identical stimuli and recording procedures with infants the same age.
Impact of second-language experience in infancy: brain measures of first- and second-language speech perception
Article first published online: 12 MAY 2010
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Volume 14, Issue 2, pages 242–248, March 2011
How to Cite
Conboy, B. T. and Kuhl, P. K. (2011), Impact of second-language experience in infancy: brain measures of first- and second-language speech perception. Developmental Science, 14: 242–248. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7687.2010.00973.x
- Issue published online: 18 FEB 2011
- Article first published online: 12 MAY 2010
- Received: 24 March 2009 Accepted: 24 January 2010
Language experience ‘narrows’ speech perception by the end of infants’ first year, reducing discrimination of non-native phoneme contrasts while improving native-contrast discrimination. Previous research showed that declines in non-native discrimination were reversed by second-language experience provided at 9–10 months, but it is not known whether second-language experience affects first-language speech sound processing. Using event-related potentials (ERPs), we examined learning-related changes in brain activity to Spanish and English phoneme contrasts in monolingual English-learning infants pre- and post-exposure to Spanish from 9.5 to 10.5 months of age. Infants showed a significant discriminatory ERP response to the Spanish contrast at 11 months (post-exposure), but not at 9 months (pre-exposure). The English contrast elicited an earlier discriminatory response at 11 months than at 9 months, suggesting improvement in native-language processing. The results show that infants rapidly encode new phonetic information, and that improvement in native speech processing can occur during second-language learning in infancy.