Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



Major Professor

Jessica S. Hay

Committee Members

Gregory D. Reynolds, Daniela M. Corbetta, Devin M. Casenhiser


To become successful readers, children must be able to recognize how changes in sound correspond to changes in word meaning. Rhymes, which contain minimal pair words that differ in their initial phoneme but share final vowels and codas (e.g., the cat in the hat), are often used in preschool and kindergarten classrooms as a tool to promote literacy and word learning. Although young language learners can generally discriminate minimal pair words, they often show difficulty when asked to assign them as labels for separate novel objects. The present experiment investigated the role of experience with rhyme on the mapping of minimal pair words to novel objects. Fourteen-month-old infants participated in two conditions, a Rhyme condition and a Repetition condition, administered one week apart. Order of presentation was randomized across participants. In the Rhyme condition, infants were familiarized with a nonsense story that contained 12 target rhyming words (e.g., fin, hin, zin) along with 28 non-rhyming filler words, arranged into rhythmic couplets (e.g., Lat kin mo lu vin, Pab roo mip fi nin). In the Repetition condition, infants were familiarized with a second nonsense story in which the target words repeated (e.g., Lat rin mo lu rin, Pab roo mip fi rin). Following familiarization, infants were presented with two novel object-label pairs (e.g., bin/gak paired with Object A and din/pak paired with Object B). Learning of these object-label associations was then tested using a Visual Choice Procedure, where both objects appeared simultaneously while a single label was presented in a carrier phrase (e.g., Look at the bin! Bin!). Accuracy and reaction time to target were assessed through offline coding of infant eye gaze data. No significant effect was found for Condition or Target Label. Results suggest infants did not sufficiently learn the novel object-label pairs and perhaps, more referential support or a less cognitively demanding task than the one used in the current study is needed to map minimal pairs.

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