Two experiments investigated whether novel phonotactic regularities, not present in English, could be acquired by 16.5-month-old infants from brief auditory experience. Subjects listened to consonant-vowel-consonant syllables in which particular consonants were artificially restricted to either initial or final position (e.g. /bæp/ not /pæb/). In a later head-turn preference test, infants listened longer to new syllables that violated the experimental phonotactic constraints than to new syllables that honored them. Thus, infants rapidly learned phonotactic regularities from brief auditory experience and extended them to unstudied syllables, documenting the sensitivity of the infant's language processing system to abstractions over linguistic experience. © 2002 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.
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