Krista Byers-Heinlein

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Despite the prevalence of bilingualism, language acquisition research has focused on monolingual infants. Monolinguals cannot learn minimally different words (e.g., "bih" and "dih") in a laboratory task until 17 months of age (J. F. Werker, C. T. Fennell, K. M. Corcoran, & C. L. Stager, 2002). This study was extended to 14- to 20-month-old bilingual(More)
How infants learn new words is a fundamental puzzle in language acquisition. To guide their word learning, infants exploit systematic word-learning heuristics that allow them to link new words to likely referents. By 17 months, infants show a tendency to associate a novel noun with a novel object rather than a familiar one, a heuristic known as(More)
Previous research has shown that by the time of birth, the neonate brain responds specially to the native language when compared to acoustically similar non-language stimuli. In the current study, we use near-infrared spectroscopy to ask how prenatal language experience might shape the brain response to language in newborn infants. To do so, we examine the(More)
Human infants become native-language listeners through a process of perceptual narrowing. Monolingual infants are initially sensitive to a wide range of language-relevant contrasts. However, as they mature and gain native-language experience, their sensitivity to nonnative contrasts declines. Here, we consider the case of infants growing up bilingual as a(More)
Languages function as independent and distinct conventional systems, and so each language uses different words to label the same objects. This study investigated whether 2-year-old children recognize that speakers of their native language and speakers of a foreign language do not share the same knowledge. Two groups of children unfamiliar with Mandarin were(More)
The first steps toward bilingual language acquisition have already begun at birth. When tested on their preference for English versus Tagalog, newborns whose mothers spoke only English during pregnancy showed a robust preference for English. In contrast, newborns whose mothers spoke both English and Tagalog regularly during pregnancy showed equal preference(More)
Many children grow up in bilingual families and acquire two first languages. Emerging research is advancing the view that the capacity to acquire language can be applied equally to two languages as to one but that bilingual and monolingual acquisition nonetheless differ in some nontrivial ways. To probe the first steps toward acquisition, researchers(More)
At the macrostructure level of language milestones, language acquisition follows a nearly identical course whether children grow up with one or with two languages. However, at the microstructure level, experimental research is revealing that the same proclivities and learning mechanisms that support language acquisition unfold somewhat differently in(More)
In ambiguous word learning situations, infants can use systematic strategies to determine the referent of a novel word. One such heuristic is disambiguation. By age 16-18months, monolinguals infer that a novel noun refers to a novel object rather than a familiar one (Halberda, 2003), while at the same age bilinguals and trilinguals do not reliably show(More)