English-Learning Infants' Representations of Word Forms With Iambic Stress


Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, Postbus 310, 6500 AH Nijmegen, The Netherlands. E-mail: elizabeth.johnson@mpi.nl


Retaining detailed representations of unstressed syllables is a logical prerequisite for infants' use of probabilistic phonotactics to segment iambic words from fluent speech. The head-turn preference study was used to investigate the nature of English-learners' representations of iambic word onsets. Fifty-four 10.5-month-olds were familiarized to passages containing the nonsense iambic word forms ginome and tupong. Following familiarization, infants were either tested on familiar (ginome and tupong) or near-familiar (pinome and bupong) versus unfamiliar (kidar and mafoos) words. Infants in the familiar test group (familiar vs. unfamiliar) oriented significantly longer to familiar than unfamiliar test items, whereas infants in the near-familiar test group (near-familiar vs. unfamiliar) oriented equally long to near-familiar and unfamiliar test items. Our results provide evidence that infants retain fairly detailed representations of unstressed syllables and therefore support the hypothesis that infants use phonotactic cues to find words in fluent speech.