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At 11 months, prosody still outranks statistics

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Johnson, E. K., & Seidl, A. (2009). At 11 months, prosody still outranks statistics. Developmental Science, 12, 131-141. doi:10.1111/j.1467-7687.2008.00740.x.

English-learning 7.5-month-olds are heavily biased to perceive stressed syllables as word onsets. By 11 months, however, infants begin segmenting non-initially stressed words from speech.Using the same artificial language methodology as Johnson and Jusczyk (2001), we explored the possibility that the emergence of this ability is linked to a decreased reliance on prosodic cues to word boundaries accompanied by an increased reliance on syllable distribution cues. In a baseline study, where only statistical cues to word boundaries were present, infants exhibited a familiarity preference for statistical words. When conflicting stress cues were added to the speech stream, infants exhibited a familiarity preference for stress as opposed to statistical words. This was interpreted as evidence that 11-month-olds weight stress cues to word boundaries more heavily than statistical cues. Experiment 2 further investigated these results with a language containing convergent cues to word boundaries. The results of Experiment 2 were not conclusive. A third experiment using new stimuli and a different experimental design supported the conclusion that 11-month-olds rely more heavily on prosodic than statistical cues to word boundaries. We conclude that the emergence of the ability to segment non-initially stressed words from speech is not likely to be tied to an increased reliance on syllable distribution cues relative to stress cues, but instead may emerge due to an increased reliance on and integration of a broad array of segmentation cues.