Phonetic representation of frequent function words in 8-month-old infants
SourceThe Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 115, 5, (2004), pp. 2504
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC CO
SW OZ NICI CO
The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America
Recent work by a number of researchers showed that even preverbal infants detect and recognize functors in continuous speech. In our research, English-learning infants aged 11 to 13 months, but not 8 months, recognized frequent and infrequent functors as a class, and represented them in segmental detail (Shi et al., 2003; Shi et al., 2004). Here we report a study on 8-month-old infants' recognition and representation of high versus low frequency functors. Infants heard sequences containing a lexical word preceded by a high frequency functor "the," versus a nonsense functor "kuh," differing from "the" only in the initial consonant, with the prosody unchanged. Another group of 8-month-olds heard sequences containing a lexical word preceded by a low frequency functor "its", versus a nonsense functor "ots". Recognition of functors would be indicated by longer listening time to sequences containing real functors. Results reveal no differential listening time between "the+lexical word (LW)" and "kuh+LW," nor between "its+LW" and "ots+LW;" however, "the+LW" and "kuh+LW" together induced longer listening time than "its+LW" and "ots+LW." We conclude that 8-month olds recognize the frequent, familiar "the" in continuous speech, but it is underspecified phonetically in infants' initial lexicon. Our previous work indicates detailed specification by 11 months.
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