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Morae and syllables: Rhythmical basis of speech representations in neonates

Tested whether 3-day-old French infants discriminate lists of Japanese words using the High-Amplitude Sucking procedure. The lists of words differed either in the number of syllabic units or in the number of subsyllabic units such as morae. In Exp 1, 24 male and 16 female infants heard bisyllabic vs trisyllabic words. In Exp 2, another 21 male and 19 female infants were presented with bimoraic vs trimoraic bisyllabic words. The results corroborate those obtained by R. Bijeljac-Babic, J. Bertoncini and J. Mehler (1993), providing further evidence that neonates discriminate bisyllabic from trisyllabic words. In contrast, neonates do not appear to discriminate bisyllabic words that vary in number of subsyllabic units. It is proposed that syllables are particularly salient units during the initial stage of speech processing, irrespective of which language and rhythmical structure. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2005 APA, all rights reserved)



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