It is logical to contend that early phonetic discrimination skills have direct relevance to later language development. Infants who experience difficulty in discriminating phonetic contrasts are more at risk for lower levels of later language development (Molfese & Molfese, 1985; 1997; Molfese & Searock, 1986). Moreover, this point is further supported by the fact that studies investigating some types of language related disabilities, as in the case of reading disabilities or learning disabilities, have generally indicated that these children and adults share a phonological deficit (see Lyon, 1994). The following review focuses on studies utilizing a number of paradigms conducted over the past 3 decades which indicate that event related potentials (ERPs) are sensitive to phonetic variations (Kraus, et al., 46; Molfese, 67; Molfese, et al., 72; Molfese and Molfese, 78, 79, 81, 82) and early word acquisition (Molfese, 1989, 1990; Molfese, Morse, & Peters, 1990; Molfese, Wetzel, & Gill, 1994). This review will focus on electrophysiological studies used to study phonetic discrimination abilities in young infants and children.
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