Effects of contextual support on preschoolers' accented speech comprehension.
In six experiments with English-learning infants, we examined the effects of variability in voice and foreign accent on word recognition. We found that 9-month-old infants successfully recognized words when two native English talkers with dissimilar voices produced test and familiarization items (Experiment 1). When the domain of variability was shifted to include variability in voice as well as in accent, 13-, but not 9-month-olds, recognized a word produced across talkers when only one had a Spanish accent (Experiments 2 and 3). Nine-month-olds accommodated some variability in accent by recognizing words when the same Spanish-accented talker produced familiarization and test items (Experiment 4). However, 13-, but not 9-month-olds, could do so when test and familiarization items were produced by two distinct Spanish-accented talkers (Experiments 5 and 6). These findings suggest that, although monolingual 9-month-olds have abstract phonological representations, these representations may not be flexible enough to accommodate the modifications found in foreign-accented speech.