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Phonetic matching of auditory and visual speech develops during childhood: Evidence from sine-wave speech


The correspondence between auditory speech and lip-read information can be detected based on a combination of temporal and phonetic cross-modal cues. Here, we determined the point in developmental time at which children start to effectively use phonetic information to match a speech sound with one of two articulating faces. We presented 4- to 11-year-olds (N=77) with three-syllabic sine-wave speech replicas of two pseudo-words that were perceived as non-speech and asked them to match the sounds with the corresponding lip-read video. At first, children had no phonetic knowledge about the sounds, and matching was thus based on the temporal cues that are fully retained in sine-wave speech. Next, we trained all children to perceive the phonetic identity of the sine-wave speech and repeated the audiovisual (AV) matching task. Only at around 6.5 years of age did the benefit of having phonetic knowledge about the stimuli become apparent, thereby indicating that AV matching based on phonetic cues presumably develops more slowly than AV matching based on temporal cues.

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