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Global versus phonemic similarity : evidence in support of multi-level representation

Ainsworth, Stephanie, Welbourne, Stephen, Woollams, Anna and Hesketh, Anne (2022) Global versus phonemic similarity : evidence in support of multi-level representation. Cognition, 225. p. 105138. ISSN 0010-0277

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There is long-standing debate about the extent to which children cognitively represent words in terms of global properties or phonological segments, yet few studies have investigated how children’s sensitivity to phonemic versus global similarity changes over time. The current study uses a mispronunciation-reconstruction task to measure both types of sensitivity within a cross-sectional (N=90, aged 3;2 to 5;7) and longitudinal sample (N=23, aged 3;2 to 5;1). The results show that children’s sensitivity to phonemes increases over the first two years of school but does not reach adult levels. The findings indicate that global similarity relations remain important throughout development and support the idea of multi-level representation.

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