Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-xfwgj Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-06-15T15:23:57.587Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Jellybeans… or Jelly, Beans…? 5-6-year-olds can identify the prosody of compounds but not lists

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 April 2021

Department of Linguistics and Centre for Language Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia
Department of Linguistics and Centre for Language Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia
Rebecca HOLT
Department of Linguistics and Centre for Language Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia
Katherine DEMUTH
Department of Linguistics and Centre for Language Sciences, Macquarie University, Australia
Address for correspondence: Nan Xu Rattanasone (email:


Learning to use word versus phrase level prosody to identify compounds from lists is thought to be a protracted process, only acquired by 11 years (Vogel & Raimy, 2002). However, a recent study has shown that 5-year-olds can use prosodic cues other than stress for these two structures in production, at least for early-acquired noun-noun compounds (Yuen et al., 2021). This raises the question of whether children this age can also use naturally-produced prosody to identify noun-noun compounds from their list forms in comprehension. The results show that 5-6-year-olds (N = 28) can only identify compounds. Unlike adults, children as a group could not use boundary cues to identify lists and were significantly slower in their processing compared to adults. This suggests that the acquisition of word level prosody may precede the acquisition of phrase level prosody, i.e., some higher-level aspects of phrasal prosody may take longer to acquire.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Becker, J. A. (1994). “Sneak-shoes”, “sworders” and “nose-beards”: a case study of lexical innovation. First Language, 14(42–43), 195211. Scholar
Campione, E., & Véronis, J. (2002). A large-scale multilingual study of silent pause duration. In Speech prosody 2002, international conference.Google Scholar
Chomsky, N., & Halle, M. (1968). The sound pattern of English.Google Scholar
Christophe, A., Dupoux, E., Bertoncini, J., & Mehler, J. (1994). Do infants perceive word boundaries? An empirical study of the bootstrapping of lexical acquisition. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 95(3), 15701580.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Clark, E. V. (1981). Lexical innovations: How children learn to create new words. The Child's Construction of Language, 299328.Google Scholar
Clark, E. V., Gelman, S. A., & Lane, N. M. (1985). Compound Nouns and Category Structure in Young Children. Child Development, 56(1), 8494. Scholar
Clark, E. V., Hecht, B. F., & Mulford, R. C. (1986). Coining complex compounds in English: Affixes and word order in acquisition. Linguistics, 24(1), 729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cutler, A., & Butterfield, S. (1990). Durational cues to word boundaries in clear speech.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Demuth, K., & McCullough, E. (2009). The prosodic (re)organization of children's early English articles. Journal of Child Language, 36(01), 173200. ScholarPubMed
Demuth, K. (2018). Prosodic constraints on children's use of grammatical morphemes. First Language, 0142723717751984. Scholar
Friedrich, C. K., Alter, K., & Kotz, S. A. (2001). An electrophysiological response to different pitch contours in words. NeuroReport, 12, 31893191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gerken, L. (2006). Decisions, decisions: infant language learning when multiple generalizations are possible. Cognition, 98(3), B67B74. ScholarPubMed
Hirose, Y., & Mazuka, R. (2015). Predictive processing of novel compounds: Evidence from Japanese. Cognition, 136, 350358.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Kong, Y.-Y., Deeks, J. M., Axon, P. R., & Carlyon, R. P. (2009). Limits of temporal pitch in cochlear implants. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 125(3), 16491657. ScholarPubMed
Krott, A., & Nicoladis, E. (2005). Large constituent families help children parse compounds. Journal of Child Language, 32(01), 139158. ScholarPubMed
Macherey, O., & Carlyon, R. P. (2014). Cochlear implants. Current Biology, 24(18), R878R884. ScholarPubMed
Macherey, O., Deeks, J. M., & Carlyon, R. P. (2011). Extending the Limits of Place and Temporal Pitch Perception in Cochlear Implant Users. JARO: Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology, 12(2), 233251. ScholarPubMed
McCauley, S. M., Hestvik, A., & Vogel, I. (2013). Perception and bias in the processing of compound versus phrasal stress: Evidence from event-related brain potentials. Language and speech, 56(1), 2344.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Nguyễn, A.-T. T., & Ingram, J. C. L. (2007). Acoustic and perceptual cues for compound-phrasal contrasts in Vietnamese. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 122(3), 17461757. ScholarPubMed
Nicoladis, E. (2003). What compound nouns mean to preschool children. Brain and Language, 84(1), 3849. ScholarPubMed
Richards, F. J. (1959). A flexible growth function for empirical use. Journal of experimental Botany, 10(2), 290301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rigler, H., Farris-Trimble, A., Greiner, L., Walker, J., Tomblin, J. B., & McMurray, B. (2015). The slow developmental time course of real-time spoken word recognition. Developmental psychology, 51(12), 1690.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Snow, D. (1994). Phrase-final syllable lengthening and intonation in early child speech. Journal of Speech & Hearing Research, 37(4), 831. ScholarPubMed
Vogel, I., & Raimy, E. (2002). The acquisition of compound vs. phrasal stress: the role of prosodic constituents. Journal of Child Language, 29(02), 225250. ScholarPubMed
Wells, B., Peppé, S., & Goulandris, N. (2004). Intonation development from five to thirteen. Journal of Child Language, 31(4), 749778.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wheeldon, L. R., & Lahiri, A. (2002). The minimal unit of phonological encoding: prosodic or lexical word. Cognition, 85(2), B31-B41.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Wightman, C. W., Shattuck-Hufnagel, S., Ostendorf, M., & Price, P. J. (1992). Segmental durations in the vicinity of prosodic phrase boundaries. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 91(3), 17071717. ScholarPubMed
Wynne, H. S., Wheeldon, L., & Lahiri, A. (2018). Compounds, phrases and clitics in connected speech. Journal of Memory and Language, 98, 4558.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yuen, I., Xu Rattanasone, N., Schmidt, E., McDonald, G., Holt, R., & Demuth, K. (2021). Five-year-olds produce prosodic cues to distinguish compounds from lists in Australian English. Journal of Child Language, 119.Google ScholarPubMed