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January 2022

Language discrimination by English-learning 5-month-olds: Effects of rhythm and familiarity

Author(s): Jusczyk, P. W., Johnson, E. K.

Journal/Book: J Mem Lang. 2000; 43: 525 B St, Ste 1900, San Diego, CA 92101-4495, USA. Academic Press Inc. 1-19.

Abstract: Six experiments using the headturn preference procedure investigated 5-month-old American infants' ability to discriminate languages. The impetus for the present study was a report that newborns discriminate languages across, but not within, rhythmic classes (Nazzi et al., 1998). Two experiments verified that at 5 months, infants still discriminate pairs of languages from different rhythmic classes (British English vs Japanese; Italian vs Japanese). An additional experiment indicated that American 5-month-olds did not discriminate two languages within a foreign rhythmic class (Italian vs Spanish, syllable-based). Three subsequent experiments tested language discrimination within the native stress-based class. Discrimination of the languages occurred when the native language or one of its variants was presented (British English vs Dutch; American English vs British English), but not when both languages were equally unfamiliar (Dutch vs German). Our findings suggest that language discrimination within the native rhythmic class derives from infants' developing knowledge of the sound organization of their native language.

Note: Article Nazzi T, Inst Child Hlth, Neurocognit Dev Unit, 30 Guilford St, London WC1N 1EH, ENGLAND

Keyword(s): rhythm; language discrimination; language acquisition; NATIVE-LANGUAGE; 2-MONTH-OLD INFANTS; SPEECH SEGMENTATION; PERCEPTUAL REORGANIZATION; 3-MONTH-OLD INFANTS; YOUNG INFANTS; CONTRASTS; STRESS; PREFERENCE; SYLLABLES


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