How much does prosody help word segmentation? A simulation study on infant-directed speech.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Infants come to learn several hundreds of word forms by two years of age, and it is possible this involves carving these forms out from continuous speech. It has been proposed that the task is facilitated by the presence of prosodic boundaries. We revisit this claim by running computational models of word segmentation, with and without prosodic information, on a corpus of infant-directed speech. We use five cognitively-based algorithms, which vary in whether they employ a sub-lexical or a lexical segmentation strategy and whether they are simple heuristics or embody an ideal learner. Results show that providing expert-annotated prosodic breaks does not uniformly help all segmentation models. The sub-lexical algorithms, which perform more poorly, benefit most, while the lexical ones show a very small gain. Moreover, when prosodic information is derived automatically from the acoustic cues infants are known to be sensitive to, errors in the detection of the boundaries lead to smaller positive effects, and even negative ones for some algorithms. This shows that even though infants could potentially use prosodic breaks, it does not necessarily follow that they should incorporate prosody into their segmentation strategies, when confronted with realistic signals.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Ludusan, B; Cristia, A; Mazuka, R; Dupoux, E

Published Date

  • February 2022

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 219 /

Start / End Page

  • 104961 -

PubMed ID

  • 34856424

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1873-7838

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0010-0277

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104961


  • eng