Abstract and Keywords
The development of auditory language perception proceeds from acoustic features via phonological representations to words and their relations in a sentence. Neurophysiological data indicate that infants discriminate acoustic differences relevant for phoneme categories and word stress patterns by the age of 2 and 4 months, respectively. Salient acoustic cues that mark prosodic phrase boundaries (e.g., pauses) are also perceived at about the age of 5 months and infants learn about the rules according to which phonemes are legally combined (i.e, phonotactics). At the end of their first year of life, children recognize and produce their first words, and electrophysiological studies suggest that they establish brain mechanisms to gain lexical representations similar to those of adults. In their second year of life, children enlarge their lexicon, and electrophysiological data show that 24-month-olds base their processing of semantic relations in sentences on brain mechanisms comparable to those observable in adults. At this age, children are also able to recognize syntactic errors in a sentence, but it takes until 32 months before they display a brain response pattern to syntactic violations similar to adults. The development of comprehension of syntactically complex sentences, such as sentences with a noncanonical word order, however, takes several more years before adult-like processes are established.
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