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Lexical stress constrains English-learning infants' segmentation in a non-native language.

  • Author(s): Sundara, Megha
  • Mateu, Victoria E
  • et al.
Abstract

Infants' ability to segment words in fluent speech is affected by their language experience. In this study we investigated the conditions under which infants can segment words in a non-native language. Using the Head-turn Preference Procedure, we found that monolingual English-learning 8-month-olds can segment bisyllabic words in Spanish (trochees and iambs) but not French (iambs). Our results are incompatible with accounts that rely on distributional learning, language rhythm similarity, or target word prosodic shape alone. Instead, we show that monolingual English-learning infants are able to segment words in a non-native language as long as words have stress, as is the case in English. More specifically, we show that even in a rhythmically different non-native language, English-learning infants can find words by detecting stressed syllables and treating them as word onsets or offsets.

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