Toddlers recognize words in an unfamiliar accent after brief exposure


Rachel Schmale, North Park University, 3225 W Foster Avenue, Box 16, Chicago, IL 60625, USA; e-mail:


Both subjective impressions and previous research with monolingual listeners suggest that a foreign accent interferes with word recognition in infants, young children, and adults. However, because being exposed to multiple accents is likely to be an everyday occurrence in many societies, it is unexpected that such non-standard pronunciations would significantly impede language processing once the listener has experience with the relevant accent. Indeed, we report that 24-month-olds successfully accommodate an unfamiliar accent in rapid word learning after less than 2 minutes of accent exposure. These results underline the robustness of our speech perception mechanisms, which allow listeners to adapt even in the absence of extensive lexical knowledge and clear known-word referents.

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