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JOURNAL OF MEMORY AND LANGUAGE 35, 606621 (1996) ARTICLE NO. 0032
 

Summary: JOURNAL OF MEMORY AND LANGUAGE 35, 606­621 (1996)
ARTICLE NO. 0032
Word Segmentation: The Role of Distributional Cues
JENNY R. SAFFRAN, ELISSA L. NEWPORT, AND RICHARD N. ASLIN
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester
One of the infant's first tasks in language acquisition is to discover the words embedded in a
mostly continuous speech stream. This learning problem might be solved by using distributional
cues to word boundaries--for example, by computing the transitional probabilities between
sounds in the language input and using the relative strengths of these probabilities to hypothesize
word boundaries. The learner might be further aided by language-specific prosodic cues correlated
with word boundaries. As a first step in testing these hypotheses, we briefly exposed adults to
an artificial language in which the only cues available for word segmentation were the transitional
probabilities between syllables. Subjects were able to learn the words of this language. Further-
more, the addition of certain prosodic cues served to enhance performance. These results suggest
that distributional cues may play an important role in the initial word segmentation of language
learners. 1996 Academic Press, Inc.
Much of the discussion in the field of lan- part of this learning must involve determining
the many arbitrary features which differ quiteguage acquisition focuses on the nature­nur-
ture dichotomy, and particularly on the ``na- widely across languages (e.g., what are the
sound sequences in this language which formture'' side of the equation: Are there innate

  

Source: Aslin, Richard N. - Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester
DeAngelis, Gregory - Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester

 

Collections: Biology and Medicine