Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders


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Published in Cognition 111:3 (June 2009), pp. 372–377; doi: 10.1016/j.cognition.2009.02.009 Copyright © 2009 Elsevier B.V. Used by permission. Online at


Children’s early word production is influenced by the statistical frequency of speech sounds and combinations. Three experiments asked whether this production effect can be explained by a perceptual learning mechanism that is sensitive to word-token frequency and/or variability. Four-year-olds were exposed to nonwords that were either frequent (presented 10 times) or in¬frequent (presented once). When the frequent nonwords were spoken by the same talker, children showed no significant effect of perceptual frequency on production. When the frequent nonwords were spoken by different talkers, children produced them with fewer errors and shorter latencies. The results implicate token variability in perceptual learning.