Effects of early linguistic experience on speech discrimination by infants: a critique of Eiler, Gavin, and Wilson (1979).

R. N. Aslin, D. B. Pisoni

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

20 Scopus citations


In a recent report in this journal, Eilers, Gavin, and Wilson (1979) presented discrimination data obtained from 2 groups of infants exposed to different language-learning environments. The results showed differences in voice onset time (VOT) discrimination between Spanish and English infants, suggesting an effect of early linguistic experience. A critique of this study indicates that such conclusions about the effects of early experience on speech perception are unwarranted on both methodological and conceptual grounds. Methodological flaws include the absence of reliable statistical analyses and the failure to guard against experimenter bias effects. Conceptual flaws involve the erroneous interpretation of failures to discriminate certain selected speech contrasts. Inferences concerning the developmental course of speech perception in young infants based on the results of the Eilers et al. study need to be interpreted cautiously in light of these serious criticisms.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)107-112
Number of pages6
JournalChild development
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 1980


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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