Canonical And Non Canonical Syllable Discrimination By Two-Day-Old Infants

Christine Moon, Thomas G. Bever, William P. Fifer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Canonical syllables may be important units in early speech perception as well as production. Twenty infants (mean age 51 hours) (and twenty controls) were tested for their ability to discriminate between members of syllable pairs which were either canonical (paet and taep) or noncanonical (pst and tsp). A discrimination learning method was used in which syllables signalled the availability of either a recording of the mother's voice or silence one of which was presented if the infant began a sucking burst. Infants in the canonical condition changed sucking patterns during signals over an 18-minute experimental session and activated their mother's voice more than silence, consistent with previous experiments using mother's voice as a reinforcer. In the noncanonical condition, infants also changed sucking patterns but sucked more during the signal for quiet than mother's voice, contrary to previous findings. Differential sucking during the syllables indicated discrimination in both conditions, but infants responded differently depending upon whether the syllables were canonical or Non Canonical. The activation of silence in the Non Canonical condition may be the result of a preference for quiet, but it is better explained as a failure to.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of child language
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • General Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'Canonical And Non Canonical Syllable Discrimination By Two-Day-Old Infants'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this