Transfer of sensorimotor learning reveals phoneme representations in preliterate children

Abstract : Reading acquisition is strongly intertwined with phoneme awareness that relies on implicit phoneme representations. We asked whether phoneme representations emerge before literacy. We recruited two groups of children, 4 to 5-year-old preschoolers (N = 29) and 7 to 8-year-old schoolchildren (N = 24), whose phonological awareness was evaluated, and one adult control group (N = 17). We altered speakers' auditory feedback in real time to elicit persisting pronunciation changes, referred to as auditory-motor adaptation or learning. Assessing the transfer of learning at phoneme level enabled us to investigate the developmental time-course of phoneme representations. Significant transfer at phoneme level occurred in preschoolers, as well as schoolchildren and adults. In addition, we found a relationship between auditory-motor adaptation and phonological awareness in both groups of children. Overall, these results suggest that phoneme representations emerge before literacy acquisition, and that these sensorimotor representations may set the ground for phonological awareness.
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Tiphaine Caudrelier, Lucie Ménard, Pascal Perrier, Jean-Luc Schwartz, Silvain Gerber, et al.. Transfer of sensorimotor learning reveals phoneme representations in preliterate children. Cognition, Elsevier, 2019, 192, pp.103973. ⟨10.1016/j.cognition.2019.05.010⟩. ⟨hal-02183243⟩

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