ASA 127th Meeting M.I.T. 1994 June 6-10

5pSP40. Infants' ability to learn and parse words.

Mary R. Newsome

Peter W. Jusczyk

Dept. of Psychol., Park Hall, SUNY at Buffalo, Amherst, NY 14260

To what extent are infants able to detect words in the speech stream? Nine-month-olds attend to global information about words, such as the predominance of strong-weak stress patterns in English [Jusczyk et al. (1993)], but parsing requires that they use this information during fluent speech perception. At 7 1/2 months, infants have been found to identify monsyllabic words when presented by themselves or in sentences, while ignoring words structurally similar to the targets [Jusczyk and Aslin (1993)]. The headturn preference procedure was used in this experiment to test 71/2-month-olds' ability to extract bisyllabic words with strong-weak stress patterns. Twenty-four infants were familiarized to words and then presented with passages that contained either the target words or unfamiliar words. Infants listened significantly longer to passages with the familiar targets. These results suggest that infants are able to detect bisyllabic words with strong-weak stress patterns. Because adults may access words in memory at the strong syllable [Cutler and Norris (1989)], infants may be demonstrating processing in this manner as well. Follow-up studies investigated infants' sensitivity to words with weak-strong patterns and to embedded words in both types of bisyllables. [Work supported by NICHD.]