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Acta Psychol (Amst). 1991 Sep;77(2):121-35.

Recurrent speech patterns as cues to the segmentation of multisyllabic sequences.

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Department of Psychology, University of Missouri, Columbia 65211.


First and second language acquisition both require that speech be segmented into familiar, multiphonemic units (e.g., words and common phrases). The present research examines one segmentation cue that is of considerable theoretical interest: the repetition of fixed sequences of speech. On each trial, subjects heard repetitions ('pre-exposures') of two artificially-constructed, multisyllabic patterns that shared an embedded segment 1 or 2 syllables long (e.g., 2 shared syllables: [ga-li-SE] and [li-SE-stu]). There were 2 and 6, 4 and 4, or 6 and 2 repetitions of the two patterns, randomly ordered. Subjects were then to indicate the groupings they perceived within a subsequent, longer sequence containing both of the pre-exposed patterns (e.g., [ga-li-SE-stu]). Responses varied systematically with the size of the embedded segment, the repetition frequencies of the two pre-exposed patterns, and the serial position of each pre-exposure. The results illustrate how investigations of the processing of speech patterns may contribute to an understanding of some elementary aspects of language learning.

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