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Dev Sci. 2006 Nov;9(6):565-73.

Infant word segmentation revisited: edge alignment facilitates target extraction.

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Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, Purdue University, W. Lafayette, IN 47906, USA.


In a landmark study, Jusczyk and Aslin (1995) demonstrated that English-learning infants are able to segment words from continuous speech at 7.5 months of age. In the current study, we explored the possibility that infants segment words from the edges of utterances more readily than the middle of utterances. The same procedure was used as in Jusczyk and Aslin (1995); however, our stimuli were controlled for target word location and infants were given a shorter familiarization time to avoid ceiling effects. Infants were familiarized to one word that always occurred at the edge of an utterance (sentence-initial position for half of the infants and sentence-final position for the other half) and one word that always occurred in sentence-medial position. Our results demonstrate that infants segment words from the edges of an utterance more readily than from the middle of an utterance. In addition, infants segment words from utterance-final position just as readily as they segment words from utterance-initial position. Possible explanations for these results, as well as their implications for current models of the development of word segmentation, are discussed.

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