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Early segmentation of fluent speech by infants acquiring French: Emerging evidence for crosslinguistic differences

Four experiments explored French-learning infants' ability to segment words from fluent speech. The focus was on bisyllabic words to investigate whether infants segment them as whole words or segment each syllable individually. No segmentation effects were found in 8-month-olds. Twelve-month-olds segmented individually both the final syllables and, under appropriate test conditions, the initial syllables of these bisyllabic words, but failed to segment bisyllabic words as whole units. The opposite pattern was observed at 16 months: final syllables were not segmented, while there was evidence that the words were segmented as whole units. The present findings are consistent with the proposal that the syllable is a unit of prosodic segmentation in French, therefore introducing evidence from a syllable-based language in support of the more general hypothesis that the emergence of segmentation abilities differs crosslinguistically as a function of the rhythmic class of the language in acquisition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)



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