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Infant-directed speech facilitates lexical learning in adults hearing Chinese: implications for language acquisition*

  • Roberta Michnick Golinkoff (a1) and Anthony Alioto (a1)

Abstract

Experiments 1 and 2 examined the effects of infant-directed (ID) speech on adults' ability to learn an individual target word in sentences in an unfamiliar, non-Western language (Chinese). English-speaking adults heard pairs of sentences read by a female, native Chinese speaker in either ID or adult-directed (AD) speech. The pairs of sentences described slides of 10 common objects. The Chinese name for the object (the target word) was placed in an utterance-final position in experiment? (n= 61) and in a medial position in experiment 2 (n= 79). At test, each Chinese target word was presented in isolation in AD speech in a recognition task. Only subjects who heard ID speech with the target word in utterance-final position demonstrated learning of the target words. The results support assertions that ID speech, which tends to put target words in sentence-final position, may assist infants in segmenting and remembering portions of the linguistic stream. In experiment 3 (n= 23), subjects judged whether each of the ID and AD speech samples prepared for experiments ? and 2 were directed to an adult or to an infant. Judgements were above chance for two types of sentence: ID speech with the target word in the final position and AD speech with the target word in a medial position. In addition to indirectly confirming the results of experiments 1 and 2, these findings suggest that at least some of the prosodic features which comprise ID speech in Chinese and English must overlap.

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Corresponding author

Department of Educational Studies, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware 19716, USA. E-mail: roberta@strauss.udel.edu.

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The pilot version of these studies was conducted as an honours thesis completed by the second author under the supervision of the first author. We wish to thank Tim Konoid and Betty McGrath for their statistical assistance, Steven Hoskins for the acoustic analyses, and Wenjun Ruan and Jenny Wong for their help in producing the stimulus tapes. We also thank the Honours Program at the University of Delaware and, in particular, Dr Joan Bennett, for their support. Peter Jusczyk gave us excellent comments on an earlier draft. Alioto is presently at Kent State University.

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References

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Infant-directed speech facilitates lexical learning in adults hearing Chinese: implications for language acquisition*

  • Roberta Michnick Golinkoff (a1) and Anthony Alioto (a1)

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