The role of social information in infants’ and toddlers’ linguistic representations
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In seven experiments I demonstrate that social group information plays a role in infants’ and toddlers’ speech processing. In Chapter 2, I provide evidence that 16-month-old infants index social information to their linguistic representations. Specifically, infants do not automatically map the linguistic features of their own racial group to a speaker of an unfamiliar race. Instead, infants wait for experience with the speaker before deciding how to interpret her pronunciations. Chapter 3 demonstrates that race is indexed to toddlers’ linguistic representations as they are being formed, even after only very little experience with a single group member. This information then influences their future interactions with speakers of the same race. Furthermore, I demonstrate that toddlers link fairly specific race information to linguistic representations. Finally, Chapter 4 shows that toddlers also use abstract cues such as previous affiliative behaviour to determine which social group an individual belongs to, and to predict how she will pronounce words. Overall, these studies demonstrate that social information is linked to infants’ and toddlers’ linguistic representations, and is used when interpreting speakers’ utterances.
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Drew Weatherhead (2017). The role of social information in infants’ and toddlers’ linguistic representations. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/12099