Title

Learning to Learn: Infants’ Acquisition of Stress-Based Strategies for Word Segmentation

Date of Original Version

1-2007

Type

Article

Abstract or Description

A majority of English words are stressed on their first syllable. Infants use stress as a cue to word segmentation, but it is unclear how infants discover the correlation between stress and word boundaries. We exposed English-learning infants to a list of words stressed on their second syllable to discover whether infants can learn a new relation between stress and word boundaries. English-learning infants treat stressed syllables as word onsets, which is incorrect in words where stressed syllables occur second (iambic words). A brief exposure allowed infants to subsequently segment iambic words correctly, whether the exposure consisted of 100% or 80% iambic words. We also trained 7-month-olds—who typically rely on transitional probabilities—to use stress as a cue to word segmentation. The results suggest that infants are sensitive to the distribution of stress across word position and that altering this distribution affects their segmentation strategies.

DOI

10.1080/15475440709337001

 

Published In

Language Learning and Development, 3, 1, 73-100.