Developmental differences in phonemic perception between monolingual and bilingual infants.

Shirley Cheung and Gert Westermann presented this poster at the 1st Lancaster Conference on Infant & Child Development, Lancaster, UK.



Infants’ ability to perceive native speech sounds improves with age and language exposure. Of growing interest are the differences in native perceptual abilities between monolingual and bilingual infants. Bilingual infants exhibit the remarkable ability to categorically perceive and organize two different sets of phonemes to its corresponding languages by performing successfully in phoneme discrimination tasks. There is robust research on phonemic discrimination in monolingual and bilinguals only of contrasts both native to bilinguals and one native to monolinguals. Findings show that at younger age groups (i.e. 4-6 months), monolinguals and bilinguals are able to distinguish all speech contrasts presented. However, at an older age (i.e. 10-12 months), only bilinguals succeed in the task. The research suggests that bilinguals are less committed to their languages during infancy (e.g. broader perceptual abilities) and their development of responses to speech sounds differ from monolinguals.