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Développement, Neurocognition, Dysfonctionnements

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Development of phonetic features in children

  Contact person
Nathalie BEDOIN

Scientific framework and objectives

Phonological knowledge about distinctive features is involved in the early steps of printed word recognition. Our priming and masking experiments have shown that printed word identification is influenced by the number of phonetic features shared by two sequentially presented words. Similarly, the sub-phonemic similarity between the consonants of a CVCV pseudo-word also affects letters identification. A model involving lateral inhibition between phonemic detectors and determined by the shared phonetic features is proposed.


The results of our experiments showed that voicing and manner of articulation are extracted rapidly during reading and cause early positive phonetic priming effects which are reminiscent of progressive harmony. However, similarity effects become detrimental effects with increasing temporal interval between prime and target. This may be due to the involvement of lateral inhibitory relations between phoneme detectors, which are elaborated during reading acquisition in normal readers and are efficient to counter errors from this early phonetic priming.
According to the effects of presentation duration and the class of shared phonetic features, competition between phoneme detectors appears to be governed by features' hierarchical organization. Manner of articulation plays a major role and is the first class of features to provide similarity effects in young readers, whereas voicing and place of articulation are entailed later in the development and during letters processing, at least in children with typical reading acquisition. Atypical development of phonetic features' hierarchy investigated through priming and masking effects during reading is observed in the case of phonological dyslexia, while children with surface dyslexia suffer from a delayed development of this hierarchical organization.
Additional experiments emphasized the sensitivity of typical and dyslexic readers to another sub-phonemic aspect ‒ the sonority of consonants ‒ particularly at syllable boundaries.

  • Bedoin, N., 2003, "Sensitivity to voicing similarity in printed stimuli: Effect of a training programme in dyslexic children", Journal of Phonetics, 31:3-4, pp. 541-546
  • Bedoin, N., Dissard, P., 2002, "Sonority and syllabic structure in reading: Differences between French and English readers", Current Psychology Letters: Behaviour, Brain & Cognition, 2:8, pp. 67-83
  • Bedoin, N., dos Santos, C., 2008, "How do consonant feature values affect the processing of a CVCV structure? Evidence from a reading task", Written Language & Literacy, 11:2, pp. 188-207
  • Bedoin, N., Krifi, S., 2009, "The complexity of phonetic features organisation in reading", in Approaches to phonological complexity, Pellegrino, F., Marsico, E., Chitoran, I., Coupé, C. (eds), Berlin/New York, De Gruyter Mouton, pp. 267-295, Phonology & Phonetics Series
  • Krifi, S., Bedoin, N., Mérigot, A., 2003, "Effects of voicing similarity between consonants in printed stimuli, in normal and dyslexic children", Current Psychology Letters: Behaviour, Brain & Cognition, 10:1, pp. 1-7

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