Infants with Williams syndrome detect statistical regularities in continuous speech.

TitleInfants with Williams syndrome detect statistical regularities in continuous speech.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsCashon CH, Ha O-R, Estes KGraf, Saffran JR, Mervis CB
JournalCognition
Volume154
Pagination165-8
Date Published2016 Sep
ISSN1873-7838
Abstract

Williams syndrome (WS) is a rare genetic disorder associated with delays in language and cognitive development. The reasons for the language delay are unknown. Statistical learning is a domain-general mechanism recruited for early language acquisition. In the present study, we investigated whether infants with WS were able to detect the statistical structure in continuous speech. Eighteen 8- to 20-month-olds with WS were familiarized with 2min of a continuous stream of synthesized nonsense words; the statistical structure of the speech was the only cue to word boundaries. They were tested on their ability to discriminate statistically-defined "words" and "part-words" (which crossed word boundaries) in the artificial language. Despite significant cognitive and language delays, infants with WS were able to detect the statistical regularities in the speech stream. These findings suggest that an inability to track the statistical properties of speech is unlikely to be the primary basis for the delays in the onset of language observed in infants with WS. These results provide the first evidence of statistical learning by infants with developmental delays.

DOI10.1016/j.cognition.2016.05.009
Alternate JournalCognition
PubMed ID27299804
PubMed Central IDPMC4943075
Grant ListP20 RR017702 / RR / NCRR NIH HHS / United States
R37 HD029957 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R37 HD037466 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States