The acoustic salience of prosody trumps infants' acquired knowledge of language-specific prosodic patterns.


Journal Article

There is mounting evidence that prosody facilitates grouping the speech stream into syntactically-relevant units (e.g., Hawthorne & Gerken, 2014; Soderstrom, Kemler Nelson, & Jusczyk, 2005). We ask whether prosody's role in syntax acquisition relates to its general acoustic salience or to the learner's acquired knowledge of correlations between prosody and syntax in her native language. English- and Japanese-acquiring 19-month-olds listened to sentences from an artificial grammar with non-native prosody (Japanese or English, respectively), then were tested on their ability to recognize prosodically-marked constituents when the constituents had moved to a new position in the sentence. Both groups were able to use non-native prosody to parse speech into cohesive, reorderable, syntactic constituent-like units. Comparison with Hawthorne & Gerken (2014), in which English-acquiring infants were tested on sentences with English prosody, suggests that 19-month-olds are equally adept at using native and non-native prosody for at least some types of learning tasks and, therefore, that prosody is useful in early syntactic segmentation because of its acoustic salience.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Hawthorne, K; Mazuka, R; Gerken, L

Published Date

  • July 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 82 /

Start / End Page

  • 105 - 117

PubMed ID

  • 25870497

Pubmed Central ID

  • 25870497

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1096-0821

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0749-596X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.jml.2015.03.005


  • eng