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

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2007
JournalCognitive Psychology
Journal number4
Volume55
Number of pages47
Pages259-305
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

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.