Project 10

Words and rule extractions in typical and atypical development (WP2)

ESR 10: Elena Pagliarini


Prof. Luca Bonatti, (University Pompeu Fabra, Spain)
Prof. Barbara Höhle (University of Potsdam, Germany)

Infants as young as 8 months of age already master a considerable number of word-object associations. Words in an adult lexicon are complex entities involving several layers of representations — phonological, morphophonemic, syntactic, semantic, and eventually, orthographic. Early word representations are necessarily incomplete entities. When phonological narrowing is not complete, a lexicon cannot be enriched by an extensive network of novel words, because infants cannot distinguish allophonic from phonological variations. A dysfunctional development of one level of representation may affect the emergence and the consolidation of further levels. We will teach infants from 8 months on labels for objects, either containing phonemic or allophonic variations. Infants’ eye tracking in visual preference tasks will be recorded. We will study how phonological narrowing brings about a restructuring of these early word representations. By comparing infants with no known risks of SLI or DD with infants at risk, we will investigate whether such a restructuring may affect at risk groups.

The results for this ESR will provide relevant information to understand how early word representations are constructed, how the fixation of a phonological system affects it, and whether this particular aspect of the formation of word representation may be defective in at risk population.