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Do newly formed word representations encode non-criterial information?*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 July 2010

University of Calgary
Address for correspondence: Suzanne Curtin, Department of Psychology, 2500 University Drive NW, University of Calgary, Calgary, ABCanada, T2N 1N4. tel: 403-220-7670; fax: 403-282-8249; e-mail:


Lexical stress is useful for a number of language learning tasks. In particular, it helps infants segment the speech stream and identify phonetic contrasts. Recent work has demonstrated that infants aged 1 ; 0 can learn two novel words differing only in their stress pattern. In the current study, we ask whether infants aged 1 ; 0 store stress information in their representations of words even when it not required for the task. To this end, we taught infants novel, three-syllable word–object pairings. At test, we manipulated the word by presenting infants with forms that shared the stress pattern of the familiar words but differed in the segments, and forms that shared the segments of the familiar word but differed in the stress pattern. Our findings reveal that infants' representations of new words include word-level stress information and do not simply contain the information critical for distinguishing between different forms.

Brief Research Report
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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Thanks to Danielle Droucker, Melanie Khu, and Natasha Nickel for their assistance with this research. I especially thank Susan Graham and Janet Werker for their extremely helpful discussions and comments on this research. I would also like to thank Edith Bavin, the action editor, and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive and insightful comments. I also thank the families who participated in this research. This research was also supported by a SSHRC post-doctoral grant (#756-2001-43), a URGC grant through the University of Calgary, and a SSHRC operating grant (#410-2009-0385).



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