Danish 20-month-olds' recognition of familiar words with and without consonant and vowel mispronunciations

Anders Højen*, Thomas O. Madsen, Dorthe Bleses

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Although several studies initially supported the proposal by Nespor et al. (Nespor, Marina, Marcela Peña & Jacques Mehler. 2003. On the different roles of vowels and consonants in speech processing and language acquisition. Lingue e Linguaggio 2. 221-247) that consonants are more informative than vowels in lexical processing, a more complex picture has emerged from recent research. Current evidence suggests that infants initially show a vowel bias in lexical processing and later transition to a consonant bias, possibly depending on the characteristics of the ambient language. Danish infants have shown a vowel bias in word learning at 20 months - an age at which infants learning French or Italian no longer show a vowel bias but rather a consonant bias, and infants learning English show no bias. The present study tested whether Danish 20-month-olds also have a vowel bias when recognizing familiar words. Specifically, using the Intermodal Preferential Looking paradigm, we tested whether Danish infants were more likely to ignore or accept consonant than vowel mispronunciations when matching familiar words with pictures. The infants successfully matched correctly pronounced familiar words with pictures but showed no vowel or consonant bias when matching mispronounced words with pictures. The lack of a bias for Danish vowels or consonants in familiar word recognition adds to evidence that lexical processing biases are language-specific and may additionally depend on developmental age and perhaps task difficulty.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)309-328
Publication statusPublished - 11. Oct 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston 2023.


  • Danish
  • infant speech perception
  • language acquisition
  • lexical processing
  • processing bias


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