English-learning one- to two-year-olds do not show a consonant bias in word learning

J Child Lang. 2014 Sep;41(5):1085-114. doi: 10.1017/S0305000913000287. Epub 2013 Jul 19.


Following the proposal that consonants are more involved than vowels in coding the lexicon (Nespor, Peña & Mehler, 2003), an early lexical consonant bias was found from age 1;2 in French but an equal sensitivity to consonants and vowels from 1;0 to 2;0 in English. As different tasks were used in French and English, we sought to clarify this ambiguity by using an interactive word-learning study similar to that used in French, with British-English-learning toddlers aged 1;4 and 1;11. Children were taught two CVC labels differing on either a consonant or vowel and tested on their pairing of a third object named with one of the previously taught labels, or part of them. In concert with previous research on British-English toddlers, our results provided no evidence of a general consonant bias. The language-specific mechanisms explaining the differential status for consonants and vowels in lexical development are discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child Language
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Language
  • Language Development*
  • Learning
  • Male
  • Phonetics