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Delayed acquisition of non-adjacent vocalic dependencies

The ability to compute non-adjacent regularities is key in the acquisition of a new language. In the domain of phonology/phonotactics, sensitivity to non-adjacent regularities between consonants has been found to appear between 7 and 10 months. The present study focuses on the emergence of a posterior-anterior (PA) bias, a regularity involving two non-adjacent vowels. Experiments 1 and 2 show that a preference for PA over AP (anterior-posterior) words emerges between 10 and 13 months in French-learning infants. Control experiments show that this bias cannot be explained by adjacent or positional preferences. The present study demonstrates that infants become sensitive to non-adjacent vocalic distributional regularities between 10 and 13 months, showing the existence of a delay for the acquisition of non-adjacent vocalic regularities compared to equivalent non-adjacent consonantal regularities. These results are consistent with the CV hypothesis, according to which consonants and vowels play different roles at different linguistic levels.



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