Brain and language
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The developmental trajectory of spoken word recognition has been well established in Indo-European languages, but to date remains poorly characterized in Mandarin Chinese. In this study, typically developing children (N=17; mean age 10; 5) and adults (N=17; mean age 24) performed a picture-word matching task in Mandarin while we recorded ERPs. Mismatches diverged from expectations in different components of the Mandarin syllable; namely, word-initial phonemes, word-final phonemes, and tone. By comparing responses to different mismatch types, we uncovered evidence suggesting that both children and adults process words incrementally. However, we also observed key developmental differences in how subjects treated onset and rime mismatches. This was taken as evidence for a stronger influence of top-down processing on spoken word recognition in adults compared to children. This work therefore offers an important developmental component to theories of Mandarin spoken word recognition.