The phonological-distributional coherence hypothesis: cross-linguistic evidence in language acquisition

Monaghan, Padraic and Christiansen, Morten H and Chater, Nick (2007) The phonological-distributional coherence hypothesis: cross-linguistic evidence in language acquisition. Cognitive Psychology, 55 (4). pp. 259-305. ISSN 0010-0285

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Several phonological and prosodic properties of words have been shown to relate to differences between grammatical categories. Distributional information about grammatical categories is also a rich source in the child's language environment. In this paper we hypothesise that such cues operate in tandem for developing the child's knowledge about grammatical categories. We term this the Phonological-Distributional Coherence Hypothesis (PDCH). We tested the PDCH by analysing phonological and distributional information in distinguishing open from closed class words and nouns from verbs in four languages: English, Dutch, French, and Japanese. We found an interaction between phonological and distributional cues for all four languages indicating that when distributional cues were less reliable, phonological cues were stronger. This provides converging evidence that language is structured such that language learning benefits from the integration of information about category from contextual and sound-based sources, and that the child's language environment is less impoverished than we might suspect.

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Cognitive Psychology
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23 Feb 2012 02:40
Last Modified:
21 Sep 2023 01:13