Preschoolers rely on rich speech representations to process variable speech

Margaret Cychosz, Tristan Mahr, Benjamin Munson, Rochelle Newman, Jan R. Edwards

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


To learn language, children must map variable input to categories such as phones and words. How do children process variation and distinguish between variable pronunciations (“shoup” for soup) versus new words? The unique sensory experience of children with cochlear implants, who learn speech through their device's degraded signal, lends new insight into this question. In a mispronunciation sensitivity eyetracking task, children with implants (N = 33), and typical hearing (N = 24; 36–66 months; 36F, 19M; all non-Hispanic white), with larger vocabularies processed known words faster. But children with implants were less sensitive to mispronunciations than typical hearing controls. Thus, children of all hearing experiences use lexical knowledge to process familiar words but require detailed speech representations to process variable speech in real time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e197-e214
JournalChild development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank the children and families who participated in this research study as well as the research assistants who facilitated data collection. Additional thanks to members of the GAMMs club, especially Margarethe McDonald, for their feedback on portions of the statistical analysis. The authors acknowledge funding from the following sources: National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders grants F32DC019539 (M.C.) and R01DC02932 (B.M., J.E., and Mary E. Beckman).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors. Child Development published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of Society for Research in Child Development.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural


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