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date: 11 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

A fundamental skill in early language acquisition is the ability to detect individual words in the fluent stream of speech. This process is challenging because the speech signal does not contain fully reliable acoustic word boundary indicators. Yet before 1 year of age, infants begin to find words and to make sense of those words. There is evidence that infants segment speech by taking advantage of language-general word boundary cues, such as isolated words, utterance edges, and patterns of syllable probabilities, as well as language-specific cues such as lexical stress and phonotactics. Infants use these sources of information to extract new word forms, making them available for further linguistic processing. The present chapter addresses the development of infants’ ability to segment words, as well as the connections between word segmentation and vocabulary acquisition.

Keywords: word segmentation, infants, vocabulary acquisition, fluent speech, word boundary cues, phonotactics, lexical stress

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