Vihman, M. M., & Majorano, M. (2017). The role of geminates in infants’ early word production and word-form recognition. Journal of Child Language, 44,158-184. doi: 10.1017/S0305000915000793
Abstract. Infants learning languages with long consonants, or geminates, have been found to ‘overselect’ and ‘overproduce’ these consonants in early words and also to commonly omit the word-initial consonant. A production study with thirty Italian children recorded at 1;3 and 1;9 strongly confirmed both of these tendencies. To test the hypothesis that it is the salience of the medial geminate that detracts attention from the initial consonant we conducted three experiments with 11-month-old Italian infants. We first established baseline word-form recognition for untrained familiar trochaic disyllables and then tested for word-form recognition, separately for words with geminates and singletons, after changing the initial consonant to create nonwords from both familiar and rare forms. Familiar words with geminates were recognized despite the change, words with singletons were not. The findings indicate that a feature occurring later in the word affects initial consonant production and perception, which supports the whole-word phonology model.