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Cognition. 1999 Feb 1;70(1):27-52.

Statistical learning of tone sequences by human infants and adults.

Author information

1
University of Rochester, New York, NY, USA. jsaffran@facstaff.wisc.edu

Abstract

Previous research suggests that language learners can detect and use the statistical properties of syllable sequences to discover words in continuous speech (e.g. Aslin, R.N., Saffran, J.R., Newport, E.L., 1998. Computation of conditional probability statistics by 8-month-old infants. Psychological Science 9, 321-324; Saffran, J.R., Aslin, R.N., Newport, E.L., 1996. Statistical learning by 8-month-old infants. Science 274, 1926-1928; Saffran, J., R., Newport, E.L., Aslin, R.N., (1996). Word segmentation: the role of distributional cues. Journal of Memory and Language 35, 606-621; Saffran, J.R., Newport, E.L., Aslin, R.N., Tunick, R.A., Barrueco, S., 1997. Incidental language learning: Listening (and learning) out of the corner of your ear. Psychological Science 8, 101-195). In the present research, we asked whether this statistical learning ability is uniquely tied to linguistic materials. Subjects were exposed to continuous non-linguistic auditory sequences whose elements were organized into 'tone words'. As in our previous studies, statistical information was the only word boundary cue available to learners. Both adults and 8-month-old infants succeeded at segmenting the tone stream, with performance indistinguishable from that obtained with syllable streams. These results suggest that a learning mechanism previously shown to be involved in word segmentation can also be used to segment sequences of non-linguistic stimuli.

PMID:
10193055
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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