Children show right-lateralized effects of spoken word-form learning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Researchers

Research units

  • University of Helsinki
  • McMaster University
  • University of Jyväskylä

Abstract

It is commonly thought that phonological learning is different in young children compared to adults, possibly due to the speech processing system not yet having reached full native-language specialization. However, the neurocognitive mechanisms of phonological learning in children are poorly understood. We employed magnetoencephalography (MEG) to track cortical correlates of incidental learning of meaningless word forms over two days as 6±8-year-olds overtly repeated them. Native (Finnish) pseudowords were compared with words of foreign sound structure (Korean) to investigate whether the cortical learning effects would be more dependent on previous proficiency in the language rather than maturational factors. Half of the items were encountered four times on the first day and once more on the following day. Incidental learning of these recurring word forms manifested as improved repetition accuracy and a correlated reduction of activation in the right superior temporal cortex, similarly for both languages and on both experimental days, and in contrast to a salient left-hemisphere emphasis previously reported in adults. We propose that children, when learning new word forms in either native or foreign language, are not yet constrained by left-hemispheric segmental processing and established sublexical native-language representations. Instead, they may rely more on supra-segmental contours and prosody.

Details

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0171034
Pages (from-to)1-20
JournalPloS one
Volume12
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

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