In order to acquire language, infants must extract its building blocks words and master the rules governing their legal combinations from speech. These two problems are not independent, however: words also have internal structure. Thus, infants must extract two kinds of information from the same speech input. They must find the actual words of their language. Furthermore, they must identify its possible words, that is, the sequences of sounds that, being morphologically well formed, could be words. Here, we show that infants' sensitivity to possible words appears to be more primitive and fundamental than their ability to find actual words. We expose 12- and 18-month-old infants to an artificial language containing a conflict between statistically coherent and structurally coherent items. We show that 18-month-olds can extract possible words when the familiarization stream contains marks of segmentation, but cannot do so when the stream is continuous. Yet, they can find actual words from a continuous stream by computing statistical relationships among syllables. By contrast, 12-month-olds can find possible words when familiarized with a segmented stream, but seem unable to extract statistically coherent items from a continuous stream that contains minimal conflicts between statistical and structural information. These results suggest that sensitivity to word structure is in place earlier than the ability to analyze distributional information. The ability to compute nontrivial statistical relationships becomes fully effective relatively late in development, when infants have already acquired a considerable amount of linguistic knowledge. Thus, mechanisms for structure extraction that do not rely on extensive sampling of the input are likely to have a much larger role in language acquisition than general-purpose statistical abilities. (C) 2013 Published by Elsevier Inc.
Bonatti, Luca L. (Corresponding)
|Titolo:||Words and possible words in early language acquisition|
|Data di pubblicazione:||2013|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||2.1 Articolo su rivista |
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