ERIC Number: EJ849243
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-May
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 53
The Secret Is in the Sound: From Unsegmented Speech to Lexical Categories
Christiansen, Morten H.; Onnis, Luca; Hockema, Stephen A.
Developmental Science, v12 n3 p388-395 May 2009
When learning language, young children are faced with many seemingly formidable challenges, including discovering words embedded in a continuous stream of sounds and determining what role these words play in syntactic constructions. We suggest that knowledge of phoneme distributions may play a crucial part in helping children segment words and determine their lexical category, and we propose an integrated model of how children might go from unsegmented speech to lexical categories. We corroborated this theoretical model using a two-stage computational analysis of a large corpus of English child-directed speech. First, we used transition probabilities between phonemes to find words in unsegmented speech. Second, we used distributional information about word edges--the beginning and ending phonemes of words--to predict whether the segmented words from the first stage were nouns, verbs, or something else. The results indicate that discovering lexical units and their associated syntactic category in child-directed speech is possible by attending to the statistics of single phoneme transitions and word-initial and final phonemes. Thus, we suggest that a core computational principle in language acquisition is that the same source of information is used to learn about different aspects of linguistic structure.
Descriptors: Phonemes, Nouns, Probability, Language Acquisition, Young Children, Syntax, Models, Computational Linguistics
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A