Exploring the Implications of Input Variability for Unfamiliar Accented Speech Perception: A Focused Review and New Hypotheses

Tiana M. Cowan, Anne J. Olmstead

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Children with and without communication disorders have difficulty understanding words and sentences produced by talkers with unfamiliar characteristics, such as unfamiliar accents. To date, few studies have investigated how this difficulty manifests in linguistically diverse children. Studies of monolingual children have found that lexical and phonological skills predict accurate perception. For linguistically diverse children, there are differences in the structure of their linguistic input relative to their monolingual peers. These differences in their linguistic input influence their lexical and phonological development, suggesting that they may also differ in how they perceive unfamiliar accented speech. In this paper we present different hypotheses for how input variability might affect unfamiliar accented speech perception. Then, we conduct a focused review of the literature on how input variability affects early linguistic development for bilingual and bidialectal children. We link this information to the literature on how children with and without language disorders understand unfamiliar accented speech to identify important areas for future inquiry. Determining how input variability interacts with linguistic skills to predict unfamiliar speech perception is a crucial area for future inquiry. Effective clinical recommendations and educational accommodations require understanding of the linguistic skills and experience that support accurate variable speech perception for diverse populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number67
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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