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ERIC Number: EJ1079370
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Nov
Pages: 12
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0012-1649
Listening through Voices: Infant Statistical Word Segmentation across Multiple Speakers
Graf Estes, Katharine; Lew-Williams, Casey
Developmental Psychology, v51 n11 p1517-1528 Nov 2015
To learn from their environments, infants must detect structure behind pervasive variation. This presents substantial and largely untested learning challenges in early language acquisition. The current experiments address whether infants can use statistical learning mechanisms to segment words when the speech signal contains acoustic variation produced by changes in speakers' voices. In Experiment 1, 8- and 10-month-old infants listened to a continuous stream of novel words produced by 8 different female voices. The voices alternated frequently, potentially interrupting infants' detection of transitional probability patterns that mark word boundaries. Infants at both ages successfully segmented words in the speech stream. In Experiment 2, 8-month-olds demonstrated the ability to generalize their learning about the speech stream when presented with a new, acoustically distinct voice during testing. However, in Experiments 3 and 4, when the same speech stream was produced by only 2 female voices, infants failed to segment the words. The results of these experiments indicate that low acoustic variation may interfere with infants' efficiency in segmenting words from continuous speech, but that infants successfully use statistical cues to segment words in conditions of high acoustic variation. These findings contribute to our understanding of whether statistical learning mechanisms can scale up to meet the demands of natural learning environments.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Science Foundation (NSF); Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) (NIH)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: BCS0847379; HD062755