14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999

The Development of Linguistic Attention in Early Infancy: The Role of Prosodic and Phonetic Information

Denis Burnham, Christine Kitamura, Vincenzo Lancuba

Macarthur Auditory Research Centre Sydney, University of Western Sydney Macarthur, Australia

Newborn infants come equipped with a sophisticated auditory system, allowing them to perceive fine grained phonetic distinctions. This phonetic detail is not audible through the lowpass filter of the mother's womb, whereas prosodic information is. Thus when born, infants have speech preferences based on prosody not on phonetic segments. The experiments here concern the role of prosodic and phonetic information in infants' preference for their native language. English language environment infants of 6, 7½, and 9 months were tested for their preference of two lists, one of Thai and one of English words. The availability of lexical tone and stress information were manipulated by using 1- and 2-syllable words, and of prosodic and phonetic information by low-pass filtering. The results show that infants cannot use the tonal information on 1-syllable words to recognise their native language, and that stress and phonetic information work in tandem for native language recognition.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Burnham, Denis / Kitamura, Christine / Lancuba, Vincenzo (1999): "The development of linguistic attention in early infancy: the role of prosodic and phonetic information", In ICPhS-14, 1197-1200.