The relationship between auditory-visual speech perception and language-specific speech perception at the onset of reading instruction in English-speaking children

J Exp Child Psychol. 2013 Oct;116(2):120-38. doi: 10.1016/j.jecp.2013.03.003. Epub 2013 Jun 15.


Speech perception is auditory-visual, but relatively little is known about auditory-visual compared with auditory-only speech perception. One avenue for further understanding is via developmental studies. In a recent study, Sekiyama and Burnham (2008) found that English speakers significantly increase their use of visual speech information between 6 and 8 years of age but that this development does not appear to be universal across languages. Here, the possible bases for this language-specific increase among English speakers were investigated. Four groups of English-language children (5, 6, 7, and 8 years) and a group of adults were tested on auditory-visual, auditory-only, and visual-only speech perception; language-specific speech perception with native and non-native speech sounds; articulation; and reading. Results showed that language-specific speech perception and lip-reading ability reliably predicted auditory-visual speech perception in children but that adult auditory-visual speech perception was predicted by auditory-only speech perception. The implications are discussed in terms of both auditory-visual speech perception and language development.

Keywords: Auditory–visual speech perception; Children; Language-specific speech perception; McGurk effect; Speech development; Visual speech.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Auditory Perception*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Male
  • Phonetics
  • Reading*
  • Speech Perception*
  • Visual Perception*