To examine how young children recognize the association between two different types of meaningful sounds and their visual referents, we compared 15-, 20-, and 25-month-old infants' looking time responses to familiar naturalistic environmental sounds (e.g., the sound of a dog barking) and their empirically matched verbal descriptions (e.g., “Dog barking”) in an intermodal preferential looking paradigm. Across all three age groups, performance was indistinguishable over the two domains. Infants with the largest vocabularies were more accurate in processing the verbal phrases than the environmental sounds. However, after taking into account each child's verbal comprehension/production and the onomatopoetic test items, all cross-domain differences disappeared. Correlational analyses revealed that the processing of environmental sounds was tied to chronological age, while the processing of speech was linked to verbal proficiency. Overall, while infants' ability to recognize the two types of sounds did not differ behaviorally, the underlying processes may differ depending on the type of auditory input
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