Compensation for nasal place assimilation in Dutch infants
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Background: Learning about the native language’s phonological rules is an important task in language acquisition, yet infant data on the perception of such rules are to date very limited. Few studies (Chambers, Onishi and Fisher 2002; Seidl, Cristiá, Bernard & Onishi 2009; White, Peperkamp, Kirk & Morgan 2008) give us the indication that infants have learned different kinds of phonological alternations between 11 and 16.5 months of age. Based on these studies we would predict that children, at least by 16.5 months of age, are able to apply native language phonological rules. Aims: This study aims to investigate the development of knowledge about nasal place assimilation, a common phonological process of Dutch, in Dutch infants of 17 months of age. Do Dutch infants of 17 months of age compensate for nasal place assimilation? Methods: A series of two familiarity-novelty preference experiments examined infants’ capacities to detect a change from n-final to m-final word forms. The sentential contexts of the target words were unviable in Experiment 1 and viable in Experiment 2. The visual fixation procedure was used. Results and outcomes: The infants, as a group, were able to detect the changed word forms, and thus to discriminate word-final /m/ and /n/ in an unviable assimilation context. Correct understanding of the task is reflected by this finding as well. 17-month-old infants, as a group, compensated for nasal place assimilation in a viable context. They were not able to detect a difference between the old and changed forms in an assimilation context.