Learning a language requires both statistical computations to identify words in speech and algebraic-like computations to discover higher level ( grammatical) structure. Here we show that these computations can be influenced by subtle cues in the speech signal. After a short familiarization to a continuous speech stream, adult listeners are able to segment it using powerful statistics, but they fail to extract the structural regularities included in the stream even when the familiarization is greatly extended. With the introduction of subliminal segmentation cues, however, these regularities can be rapidly captured.
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