Departmental Colloquium: Thierry Nazzi (Université Paris Descartes, Paris)
Learning (or not) the C-bias: new evidence from Cantonese
Thierry Nazzi, INCC, CNRS-Université Paris Descartes
Nespor et al. (2003) proposed a functional dissociation in language processing, according to which consonants would be given more weight than vowels in lexical processing, and vowels would be given more weight than consonants in prosodic/syntactic processing. Accordingly, we investigated the proposed consonant bias at the lexical level both from a developmental and a crosslinguistic perspective. Developmentally, lexically-related studies focusing on French-learning infants between 5 and 11 months suggest that these infants switch from an early (acoustic/phonetic) V-bias around 5/6 months of age to a functional (phonological) C-bias around 8/11 months. Crosslinguistically, the C-bias was found to be pervasive in French and Italian, while a different pattern was found in both English (late emergence of the C-bias) and Danish (observation of a V-bias). This variation suggests that the originally proposed C-bias is language-modulated. We will discuss these findings in relation to early phonological and (pre)lexical developments, and will present some recent and ongoing studies on these issues conducted on tone languages.