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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Modeling a direct role of vocabulary size in driving cross-accent word identification


Children typically do not spontaneously recognize accented productions of known words until approximately 19 months. In 15-month-olds, however, this ability is correlated with vocabulary size. Vocabulary size may support cross-accent accommodation by decreasing the likelihood that a variant production is considered to be an unknown word. We simulated a cross-accent word identification experiment, with word tokens generated from a two-dimensional Gaussian space, and accented productions simulated via linear transforms. Simulated participants were Bayesian classifiers with large or small vocabularies. Our large vocabulary group accurately classified more accented tokens and were less likely to classify an accented token as an unknown word. Thus, one way a growing vocabulary size may foster cross-accent accommodation is through increasing infants’ propensity to fit accented variants to known words, rather than treating them as unknown words.

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