15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Word Segmentation in Monolingual and Bilingual Infant Learners of English and French

Linda Polka, Megha Sundara

McGill University, Canada

Word segmentation skills emerge during infancy, but it is unclear to what extent this ability is shaped by experience listening to a specific language or language type. This issue was explored by comparing segmentation of bi-syllabic words in monolingual and bilingual 7.5-month-old learners of French and English. In a native-language condition, monolingual infants segmented bi-syllabic words with the predominant stress pattern of their native language. Monolingual French infants also segmented in a different dialect of French, whereas both monolingual groups failed in a cross-language test, i.e. English infants failed to segment in French and vice versa. These findings support the hypothesis that word segmentation is shaped by infant sensitivity to the rhythmic structure of their native language. Our finding that bilingual infants segment bi-syllabic words in two native languages at the same age as their monolingual peers shows that dual language exposure does not delay the emergence of this skill.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Polka, Linda / Sundara, Megha (2003): "Word segmentation in monolingual and bilingual infant learners of English and French", In ICPhS-15, 1021-1024.