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We compare two frameworks for the segmentation of words in child-directed speech, PHOCUS and MULTICUE. PHOCUS is driven by lexical recognition, whereas MULTICUE combines sub-lexical properties to make boundary decisions, representing differing views of speech processing. We replicate these frameworks, perform novel benchmarking and confirm that both achieve competitive results. We develop a new framework for segmentation, the DYnamic Programming MULTIple-cue framework (DYMULTI), which combines the strengths of PHOCUS and MULTICUE by considering both sub-lexical and lexical cues when making boundary decisions. DYMULTI achieves state-of-the-art results and outperforms PHOCUS and MULTICUE on 15 of 26 languages in a cross-lingual experiment. As a model built on psycholinguistic principles, this validates DYMULTI as a robust model for speech segmentation and a contribution to the understanding of language acquisition.
We select three word segmentation models with psycholinguistic foundations – transitional probabilities, the diphone-based segmenter, and PUDDLE – which track phoneme co-occurrence and positional frequencies in input strings, and in the case of PUDDLE build lexical and diphone inventories. The models are evaluated on caregiver utterances in 132 CHILDES corpora representing 28 languages and 11.9 m words. PUDDLE shows the best performance overall, albeit with wide cross-linguistic variation. We explore the reasons for this variation, fitting regression models to performance scores with linguistic properties which capture lexico-phonological characteristics of the input: word length, utterance length, diversity in the lexicon, the frequency of one-word utterances, the regularity of phoneme patterns at word boundaries, and the distribution of diphones in each language. These properties together explain four-tenths of the observed variation in segmentation performance, a strong outcome and a solid foundation for studying further variables which make the segmentation task difficult.
One of the major goals of the Cambridge English Profile Programme is to identify ‘criterial features’ for each of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) proficiency levels as they apply to English, and to assess the impact of different first languages on these features (through ‘transfer’ effects). The present paper defines what is meant by criterial features and proposes an initial taxonomy of four types. Numerous illustrations are given from our collaborative research to date on the Cambridge Learner Corpus. The benefits and challenges posed by these features for corpus linguistics and for theories of second language acquisition are briefly outlined, as are the benefits and challenges for language assessment practices and for publishing ventures that make use of them as supplements to the current CEFR descriptors.