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June 2022

Prosody and the roots of parsing

Journal/Book: Lang Cognitive Process. 1996; 11: 27 Palmeira Mansions, Church Rd, Hove, E Sussex, England BN3 2FA. Lawrence Erlbaum Assoc Ltd. 69-106.

Abstract: Representing input utterances in structurally appropriate fashion is doubly important for naive language learners: Learners need to parse utterances both to generate immediate suitable interpretations and to provide bases for inducing syntactic patterns or setting grammatical parameters so that future utterances can be appropriately represented and interpreted. Many of the powerful tools used for parsing by mature speakers, however, are unavailable to infants at the outset of language learning. Possessing only meagre lexicons and rudimentary grammars, infants must begin to carve words from continuous speech, assign words to appropriate grammatical categories, and determine how words group into phrases through largely bottom-up analyses of input. Research presented in this paper on the character of infant-directed speech and the nature of infant speech perception abilities from 6 to 12 months strongly suggests that prosody, in conjunction with other forms of phonological information available in input speech, is an important contributor to such early analyses and, hence, assists infants in developing root processes of parsing. Some consequences for syntax acquisition are discussed: Input representations enhanced with prosodically encoded information offer multiple solutions to problems of triggering parameter settings that are not tractable given simple string-like representations of input utterances.

Note: Review JL Morgan, Brown Univ, Dept Cognit & Linguist Sci, Box 1978, Providence, RI 02912 USA

Keyword(s): GRAMMATICAL CATEGORY ASSIGNMENTS; YOUNG INFANTS; ACOUSTIC DETERMINANTS; SPEECH SEGMENTATION; SYNTACTIC STRUCTURE; PERCEPTION; LANGUAGE; CUES; SENTENCES; CATEGORIZATION


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