ASA 130th Meeting - St. Louis, MO - 1995 Nov 27 .. Dec 01

2aSC26. Young infants' use of prosodic cues to assess lexical information.

Francisco P. Lacerda

Inst. of Linguistics, Stockholm Univ., S-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden

Young infants were tested by the high-amplitude sucking (HAS) technique to assess their ability to use prosodic information to pick up word contrasts occurring in sentences. The results presented here were obtained from 33 experiments in which 20 Swedish infants (8 girls and 12 boys) participated. The ages at the date of the experiments varied between 58 and 147 days (mean age 105 days, median 108 days). The infants listened to pairs of natural carrier sentences, produced as child-directed speech, in which target words had been inserted. The infants were randomly assigned to each of the four conditions: (1) contrasting target words in focal position, (2) contrasting target words in nonfocal position, (3) contrast only in the position of the sentence focus, and (4) control condition (no change). The results seem to suggest that the infants, while sensitive to displacement of the sentence focus [F(1,29)=4.518,p<0.042], are unable to attend to the word contrast when the target word is in emphatic position [F(1,29)=2.358,p<0.135], but perform well when the same target word contrasts are presented in nonfocal position [F(1,29)=8.143,p<0.008]. [Research supported by The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation, Grant 94-0435.]