Boys Town Natl. Res. Hospital, 555 North 30th St., Omaha, NE 68131
One model of how mature patterns of speech perception develop suggests that the weighting of various kinds of acoustic information changes as a result of experience with a native language. It has further been suggested that this developmental shift in perceptual weighting is related to the development of mature sensitivity to the phonemic structure of one's native language (i.e., phonemic awareness). Thus it could be predicted that deficits in linguistic experience would delay both the development of mature patterns of speech perception and of phonemic awareness. This preliminary study tested this prediction by administering labeling and phonemic-awareness tasks to two groups of children: those of mid socioeconomic status (SES) and those of low SES. Several studies have shown that parental language directed to low-SES children differs from that directed to mid-SES children in kind and amount, such that low-SES children may be thought of as enduring deficits in linguistic experience. Results showed that low-SES children performed differently from mid-SES children on both experimental tasks, displaying results similar to those of younger, mid-SES children in other studies. These results suggest that linguistic experience plays a role in the development both of mature perceptual weighting schemes for speech signals and of phonemic awareness.