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English-learning infants' segmentation of verbs from fluent speech

Two experiments sought to extend the demonstration of English-learning infants' abilities to segment nouns from fluent speech to a new lexical class: verbs. Moreover, we explored whether two factors previously shown to influence noun segmentation, stress pattern (strong-weak or weak-strong) and type of initial phoneme (consonant or vowel), also influence verb segmentation. Our results establish the early emergence of verb segmentation in English: by 13.5 months for strong-weak consonant- or vowel-initial verbs and for weak-strong consonant-initial verbs; and by 16.5 months for weak-strong verbs beginning with a vowel. This generalizes previous reports of early segmentation to a new lexical class, thereby providing additional evidence that segmentation is likely to contribute to lexical acquisition. The effects of stress pattern and onset type found are similar to those previously obtained for nouns, in that verbs with a weak-strong stress pattern and verbs beginning with a vowel appear to be at a disadvantage in segmentation. Finally, we present prosodic analyses that suggest a possible effect of prosodic boundary and pitch accent distribution on segmentation. These prosodic differences potentially explain a developmental lag in verb segmentation observed in the present study compared to earlier findings for noun segmentation. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved) (journal abstract)



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