Overcoming the Effects of Variation in Infant Speech Segmentation: Influences of Word Familiarity
Previous studies have shown that 7.5‐month‐olds can track and encode words in fluent speech, but they fail to equate instances of a word that contrast in talker gender, vocal affect, and fundamental frequency. By 10.5 months, they succeed at generalizing across such variability, marking a clear transition period during which infants' word recognition skills become qualitatively more mature. Here we explore the role of word familiarity in this critical transition and, in particular, whether words that occur frequently in a child's listening environment (i.e., “Mommy” and “Daddy”) are more easily recognized when they differ in surface characteristics than those that infants have not previously encountered (termed nonwords). Results demonstrate that words are segmented from continuous speech in a more linguistically mature fashion than nonwords at 7.5 months, but at 10.5 months, both words and nonwords are segmented in a relatively mature fashion. These findings suggest that early word recognition is facilitated in cases where infants have had significant exposure to items, but at later stages, infants are able to segment items regardless of their presumed familiarity.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
10.1080/15250000701779386 About DOI