Contributions of phonetic token variability and word-type frequency to phonological representations.

Peter Richtsmeier, Louann Gerken, Diane Ohala

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


The experiments here build on the widely reported finding that children are most accurate when producing phonotactic sequences with high ambient-language frequency. What remains controversial is a description of the input that children must be tracking for this effect to arise. We present a series of experiments that compare two ambient-language properties, token and type frequency, as they contribute to phonotactic learning. Token frequency is the raw number of exposures children have to a particular pattern; type frequency refers to a count of abstract entities, such as unique words. Our results suggest that children's production accuracy is most sensitive to a combination of type and token frequency: children were able to generalize a target phonotactic sequence to a new word when familiarized with multiple word-types across tokens from multiple talkers, but not when presented with either word-types with no talker variability or multiple talker-tokens of a single word.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)951-978
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of child language
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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