Children’s Lexical Anticipation When Listening to Rhymes

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Taylor & Francis


Rhyme awareness is a varied skill emerging consistently only in late preschool, yet children respond to rhythmic and phonological patterns to spontaneously complete rhymes in everyday settings. Our study replicates and extends previous work using a modified preferential looking task to test whether preschoolers can efficiently use rhyme to anticipate spoken words. Three- to 4-year-olds (n = 30) listened to 24 simple three-line rhymes as we measured their looking patterns during the two preceding lines of a stanza and a silent anticipatory pause before the final word of the rhyme was heard. Children looked more toward illustrations of the target word that could complete each rhyme relative to two plausible distractors (p < .001) indicating that they can use rhyme to anticipate upcoming words. These findings challenge us to think more deeply about how we measure rhyme awareness and what sources of information can be recruited by young children to achieve efficient comprehension.