Elizabeth Johnson · She says tah-may-to but he says tah-mah-to: how children cope with accent variation
Developmental speech perception research has traditionally focused on explaining development in the monolingual (often English- or French-learning) child. More recently, researchers have started working with more diverse language-learning populations, including children with exposure to more than one language or more than one regional variant of the native language. In this talk, I will examine word recognition in monolingual infants and toddlers with exposure to either one or several variants of the native language. Three questions will be addressed: 1) When do infants first recognize familiar words spoken in an unfamiliar accent? 2) How do toddlers adapt to unfamiliar variants of the native language?, and 3) How does multi-accent exposure impact young children’s social and phonological development? I will conclude that children are remarkably adept at coping with a wide variety of language-learning scenarios, and suggest that language researchers may need to re-think their concept of the typical monolingual.