Laboratoire Psychologie de la Perception Institut Neurosciences Cognition Université Paris Descartes Centre National de Recherche Scientifique
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Effects of prior phonotactic knowledge on infant word segmentation: the case of non-adjacent dependencies

Purpose: In the present study, we explore whether French-learning infants use non-adjacent phonotactic regularities in their native language, which they learn between 7 and 10 months of age, to segment words from fluent speech. Method: Two groups of 20 French-learning infants were tested using the head-turn preference procedure at 10 and 13 months of age. In Experiment 1, infants were familiarized with two passages: one containing a target word with a frequent non-adjacent phonotactic structure and the other passage containing a target word with an infrequent non-adjacent phonotactic structure in French. During the test phase infants were presented with 4 word lists: two containing the target words presented during familiarization and two other control words with the same phonotactic structure. In Experiment 2, we retested infants’ ability to segment words with the infrequent phonotactic structure. Results: Ten- and 13-month-olds were able to segment words with the frequent phonotactic structure, but it is only by 13 months, and only under the circumstances of Experiment 2, that infants could segment words with the infrequent phonotactic structure. Conclusions: Our results provide new evidence showing that infant word segmentation is influenced by prior non-adjacent phonotactic knoledge.



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