Do Infants Really Learn Phonetic Categories?

Naomi H. Feldman, Sharon Goldwater, Emmanuel Dupoux, Thomas Schatz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Early changes in infants’ ability to perceive native and nonnative speech sound contrasts are typically attributed to their developing knowledge of phonetic categories. We critically examine this hypothesis and argue that there is little direct evidence of category knowledge in infancy. We then propose an alternative account in which infants’ perception changes because they are learning a perceptual space that is appropriate to represent speech, without yet caring up that space into phonetic categories. If correct this new account has substantial implications for understanding early language development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-131
Number of pages19
JournalOpen Mind
Early online date20 Sept 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • language acquisition
  • speech perception
  • computational modeling,
  • representation learning


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