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Toddlers’ Processing of Phonological Alternations: Early Compensation for Assimilation in English and French


  • This work was funded by grants from the French Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR -2010-BLAN-1901), the Fondation de France, the Fyssen Foundation, and the British Academy. We are grateful to Isabelle Brunet, Celia Demarchi, Sylvie Margules, Anne-Caroline Fiévet, and Mélanie Pinet for help in recruiting and running participants. We also thank Anna Remington and Anne Christophe for recording the auditory stimuli, and Fabian Skoruppa for help with off-line coding.

concerning this article should be addressed to Katrin Skoruppa, Department of Language and Linguistics, University of Essex, Wivenhoe Park, Colchester, Essex, CO4 3SQ, UK. Electronic mail may be sent to


Using a picture pointing task, this study examines toddlers’ processing of phonological alternations that trigger sound changes in connected speech. Three experiments investigate whether 2;5- to 3-year-old children take into account assimilations—processes by which phonological features of one sound spread to adjacent sounds—for the purpose of word recognition (e.g., in English, ten pounds can be produced as te[mp]ounds). English toddlers (= 18) show sensitivity to native place assimilations during lexical access in Experiment 1. Likewise, French toddlers (= 27) compensate for French voicing assimilations in Experiment 2. However, French toddlers (= 27) do not take into account a hypothetical non-native place assimilation rule in Experiment 3, suggesting that compensation for assimilation is already language specific.