Infant-directed input and literacy effects on phonological processing: Non-word repetition scores among the Tsimane’

Alejandrina Cristia, Gianmatteo Farabolini, Camila Scaff, Naomi Havron, Jonathan Stieglitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Language input in childhood and literacy (and/or schooling) have been described as two key experiences impacting phonological processing. In this study, we assess phonological processing via a non-word repetition (NWR) group game, in adults and children living in two villages of an ethnic group where infants are rarely spoken to, and where literacy is variable. We found lower NWR scores than in previous work for both children (N = 17; aged 1-12 years) and adults (N = 13; aged 18-60 years), which is consistent with the hypothesis that there would be long-term effects on phonological processing of experiencing low levels of directed input in infancy. Additionally, we found some evidence that literacy and/or schooling increases NWR scores, although results should be interpreted with caution given the small sample size. These findings invite further investigations in similar communities, as current results are most compatible with phonological processing being influenced by aspects of language experience that vary greatly between and within populations.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0237702
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
AC acknowledges financial and institutional support from Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR-17-CE28-0007 LangAge, ANR-16-DATA-0004 ACLEW, ANR-14-CE30-0003 MechELex, ANR-17-EURE-0017) and the J. S. McDonnell Foundation Understanding Human Cognition Scholar Award. JS acknowledges IAST funding from the French National Research Agency (ANR) under grant ANR-17-EURE-0010 (Investissements d’Avenir program). url ANR: url McDonnell Foundation: https:// The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. We are grateful to Radhia Achheb, Michel Dutat, Vireack Ul, and Catherine Urban for logistical assistance in organizing the field trip; to Angèle Barbedette and Xuan Nga Cao for setting up analysis pipelines and constructing parsable versions of Tsimane’ written materials which were crucial in the design of the items; to the three Tsimane’ research assistants who helped us prepare and deliver the stimuli; and to all the Tsimane’ individuals who participated in the study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Cristia et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.


  • Adult
  • Bolivia
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indigenous Peoples/psychology
  • Infant
  • Language Development
  • Literacy/ethnology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phonation
  • Speech Perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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