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Psychol Sci. 2007 May;18(5):387-91.

Infant rule learning facilitated by speech.

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New York University, NY 10003, USA.


Sequences of speech sounds play a central role in human cognitive life, and the principles that govern such sequences are crucial in determining the syntax and semantics of natural languages. Infants are capable of extracting both simple transitional probabilities and simple algebraic rules from sequences of speech, as demonstrated by studies using ABB grammars (la ta ta, gai mu mu, etc.). Here, we report a striking finding: Infants are better able to extract rules from sequences of nonspeech--such as sequences of musical tones, animal sounds, or varying timbres--if they first hear those rules instantiated in sequences of speech.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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