Symposium: Development of auditory and speech processing in infants and children
Wednesday, Sep 9, 2015
Hörsaal 3

Neural indices of speech perception in bilingual children

Valerie Shafer1, Tanja Rinker2, Markus Kiefer3, Nancy Vidal4, Arild Hestvik5, Hia Datta6, & Yan Yu7

1Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences, The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, NY, United States
2Zukunftskolleg, University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany
3University of Ulm, Ulm, Germany
4The Graduate Center, CUNY, New York, Germany
5Linguistics and Cognitive Science, Universit of Delaware, Newark, DE, United States
6Molloy College, Germany
7William Patterson University, New Jersey, United States

In language development, a child’s earliest task is to select the relevant acoustic-phonetic cues from the speech signal that will allow successful segmentation and recovery of meaning. First Language (L1) speech perception is initially effortful, but with increasing experience, the child becomes efficient and automatic. Bilingual speech perception introduces additional challenges. A child must learn the relevant acoustic-phonetic properties for two different languages, and these cues may be in conflict. The mismatch negativity (MMN) serves as a highly useful measure for exploring the development of speech perception in bilingual situations. This talk will focus on results from two sets of studies, one focusing on Spanish-English children in the United States (US) and the second focusing on Turkish-German children in Germany. The MMN was recorded from young children to an English vowel contrast and a German vowel contrast that was not phonemic in Spanish or Turkish. The results showed less robust neural speech discrimination (MMN) for preschool bilingual children than monolingual controls. By seven years of age, bilingual and monolingual children showed similar MMN amplitudes, but the MMN latency was still later than found for adults. The results will be discussed in relation to amount of language input, the relationship of the L1 and L2 phonology and maturation of speech processing in relation to other neural measures (P1 and T-complex).