The Development of Spontaneous Sound-Shape Matching in Monolingual and Bilingual Infants During the First Year

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Recently it has been proposed that sensitivity to nonarbitrary relationships between speech sounds and objects potentially bootstraps lexical acquisition. However, it is currently unclear whether preverbal infants (e.g., before 6 months of age) with different linguistic profiles are sensitive to such nonarbitrary relationships. Here, the authors assessed 4- and 12-month-old Basque monolingual and Spanish-Basque bilingual infants’ sensitivity to cross-modal correspondences between sound symbolic nonwords without syllable repetition (buba, kike) and drawings of rounded and angular shapes. The findings demonstrate that sensitivity to sound-shape correspondences emerge by 12 months of age in both monolinguals and bilinguals. This finding suggests that spontaneous sound-shape matching is likely to be the product of language learning and development and may not be readily available prior to the onset of word learning.

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