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PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE VOL. 9, NO. 4, JULY 1998 Copyright 1998 American Psychological Society 321

VOL. 9, NO. 4, JULY 1998 Copyright 1998 American Psychological Society 321
Abstract--A recent report demonstrated that 8-month-olds can seg-
ment a continuous stream of speech syllables, containing no acoustic
or prosodic cues to word boundaries, into wordlike units after only 2
min of listening experience (Saffran, Aslin, & Newport, 1996). Thus, a
powerful learning mechanism capable of extracting statistical informa-
tion from fluent speech is available early in development. The present
study extends these results by documenting the particular type of statis-
tical computation--transitional (conditional) probability--used by
infants to solve this word-segmentation task. An artificial language
corpus, consisting of a continuous stream of trisyllabic nonsense
words, was presented to 8-month-olds for 3 min. A postfamiliarization
test compared the infants' responses to words versus part-words (tri-
syllabic sequences spanning word boundaries). The corpus was con-
structed so that test words and part-words were matched in frequency,
but differed in their transitional probabilities. Infants showed reliable
discrimination of words from part-words, thereby demonstrating rapid
segmentation of continuous speech into words on the basis of transi-
tional probabilities of syllable pairs.


Source: Aslin, Richard N. - Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester
Indiana University - Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition


Collections: Biology and Medicine; Multidisciplinary Databases and Resources