Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception Institut Neurosciences Cognition Université Paris Descartes Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
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Sensitivity to non-adjacent phonological dependencies in 10-month-old infants

Languages instantiate many different kinds of dependencies, holding between adjacent or nonadjacent elements. In the domain of phonotactics, while sensitivity to adjacent dependencies emerges between 6 and 10 months, it is unknown when sensitivity to nonadjacent dependencies emerges. The present study tests a perceptual equivalent of the Labial-Coronal (LC) bias, a dependency involving two non-adjacent consonants. We show that 10-, but not 7-month-old, French-learning infants have a preference for LC words over CL (Coronal-Labial) words that cannot be explained by adjacent dependencies or by a preference for more frequent coronal consonants. The present study thus brings the first piece of evidence that infants are sensitive to non-adjacent dependencies at the phonotactic level by 10 months.