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Adults typically use an exaggerated, distinctive speaking style when addressing infants. However, the effects of infant-directed (ID) speech on infants' learning are not yet well understood. This research investigates how ID speech affects how infants perform a key function in language acquisition, associating the sounds of words with their meanings. Seventeen-month-old infants were presented with two label-object pairs in a habituation-based word learning task. In Experiment 1, the labels were produced in adult-directed (AD) speech. In Experiment 2, the labels were produced in ID prosody; they had higher pitch, greater pitch variation, and longer durations than the AD labels. We found that infants failed to learn the labels in AD speech, but succeeded in learning the same labels when they were produced in ID speech. Experiment 3 investigated the role of variability in learning from ID speech. When the labels were presented in ID prosody with no variation across tokens, infants failed to learn them. Our findings indicate that ID prosody can affect how readily infants map sounds to meanings and that the variability in prosody that is characteristic of ID speech may play a key role in its effect on learning new words.