Two-year-olds use primary sentence accent to learn new words.
German children aged 2;1 heard a sentence containing a nonce noun and a nonce verb (Der Feks miekt). Either the noun or the verb was prosodically highlighted by increased pitch, duration and loudness. Independently, either the object or the action in the ongoing referential scene was the new element in the situation. Children learned the nonce noun only when it was both highlighted prosodically and the object in the scene was referentially new. They did not learn the nonce verb in any condition. These results suggest that from early in linguistic development, young children understand that prosodic salience in a sentence indicates referential newness.
Grassmann, S; Tomasello, M
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