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Journal Article

Clause segmentation by 6-month-olds: A crosslingusitic perspective


Johnson,  Elizabeth K.
Language Comprehension Group, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Phonological Learning for Speech Perception , MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;
Department of Psychology, University of Toronto;

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Johnson, E. K., & Seidl, A. (2008). Clause segmentation by 6-month-olds: A crosslingusitic perspective. Infancy, 13, 440-455. doi:10.1080/15250000802329321.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-40F3-D
Each clause and phrase boundary necessarily aligns with a word boundary. Thus, infants’ attention to the edges of clauses and phrases may help them learn some of the language-specific cues defining word boundaries. Attention to prosodically wellformed clauses and phrases may also help infants begin to extract information important for learning the grammatical structure of their language. Despite the potentially important role that the perception of large prosodic units may play in early language acquisition, there has been little work investigating the extraction of these units from fluent speech by infants learning languages other than English. We report 2 experiments investigating Dutch learners’ clause segmentation abilities.In these studies, Dutch-learning 6-month-olds readily extract clauses from speech. However, Dutch learners differ from English learners in that they seem to be more reliant on pauses to detect clause boundaries. Two closely related explanations for this finding are considered, both of which stem from the acoustic differences in clause boundary realizations in Dutch versus English.