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When cues collide: use of stress and statistical cues to word boundaries by 7- to 9-month-old infants.

journal contribution
posted on 01.07.2003, 00:00 by Erik ThiessenErik Thiessen, Jenny R. Saffran

Prior research suggests that stress cues are particularly important for English-hearing infants' detection of word boundaries. It is unclear, though, how infants learn to attend to stress as a cue to word segmentation. This series of experiments was designed to explore infants' attention to conflicting cues at different ages. Experiment 1 replicated previous findings: When stress and statistical cues indicated different word boundaries, 9-month-old infants used syllable stress as a cue to segmentation while ignoring statistical cues. However, in Experiment 2, 7-month-old infants attended more to statistical cues than to stress cues. These results raise the possibility that infants use their statistical learning abilities to locate words in speech and use those words to discover the regular pattern of stress cues in English. Infants at different ages may deploy different segmentation strategies as a function of their current linguistic experience.