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Dogs, bogs, labs, and lads: what phonemic generalizations indicate about the nature of children's early word-form representations.
Whereas young children accept words that differ by only a single phoneme as equivalent labels for novel objects, older children do not (J. F. Werker, C. J. Fennell, K. M. Corcoran, & C. L. Stager, 2002). In these experiments, 106 children were exposed to a training regime that has previously been found to facilitate children's use of phonemic contrasts (E. D. Thiessen, 2007). The results indicate that the effect of this training is limited to contexts that are highly similar to children's initial experience with the phonemic contrast, suggesting that early word-form representations are not composed of entirely abstract units such as phonemes or features. Instead, these results are consistent with theories suggesting that children's early word-form representations retain contextual and perceptual features associated with children's prior experience with words.