Isolated words enhance statistical language learning in infancy.

TitleIsolated words enhance statistical language learning in infancy.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsLew-Williams C, Pelucchi B, Saffran JR
JournalDev Sci
Volume14
Issue6
Pagination1323-9
Date Published2011 Nov
ISSN1467-7687
KeywordsAttention, Humans, Infant, Language, Language Development, Phonetics, Speech Perception, Time Factors, Verbal Learning, Vocabulary
Abstract

Infants are adept at tracking statistical regularities to identify word boundaries in pause-free speech. However, researchers have questioned the relevance of statistical learning mechanisms to language acquisition, since previous studies have used simplified artificial languages that ignore the variability of real language input. The experiments reported here embraced a key dimension of variability in infant-directed speech. English-learning infants (8-10 months) listened briefly to natural Italian speech that contained either fluent speech only or a combination of fluent speech and single-word utterances. Listening times revealed successful learning of the statistical properties of target words only when words appeared both in fluent speech and in isolation; brief exposure to fluent speech alone was not sufficient to facilitate detection of the words' statistical properties. This investigation suggests that statistical learning mechanisms actually benefit from variability in utterance length, and provides the first evidence that isolated words and longer utterances act in concert to support infant word segmentation.

DOI10.1111/j.1467-7687.2011.01079.x
Alternate JournalDev Sci
PubMed ID22010892
PubMed Central IDPMC3280507
Grant ListR01HD0 37466 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
P30 HD003352 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R01 HD037466-09 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
P30 HD003352-45 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R01 HD037466 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R01 HD037466-09S1 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
F32 HD069094-01 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
P30HD03352 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
F32 HD069094 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
P30 HD003352-46 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R01HD037466-09S1 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
F32HD069094 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States
R37 HD037466 / HD / NICHD NIH HHS / United States